Samui Wining & Dining
Whether you plan it or not, knowing your way around the cardiology unit
at Bangkok Hospital Samui might be a very good thing!

Whether you plan it or not, knowing your way around the cardiology unit at Bangkok Hospital Samui might be a very good thing!We all look forward to our holidays. It’s an exciting time. But the most fun comes in the planning. Deciding where to go. Narrowing it down. The dozens of hours on Google keep us going through the long, dark, months. It lifts us up. And then, as the time draws closer, it’s time for all the details: making lists, checking reservations, packing bags, fixing up a taxi. And in the middle of all of this, tucked away somewhere, is the holiday insurance.


Some people aren’t really aware of this. But many others are, and make a point of buying a comprehensive medical option. After all, everyone’s holiday nightmare is to be sick or injured thousands of miles away from home, in a land where you can’t speak the language. It’ll probably never happen. But it’s worth paying that bit extra just for the peace of mind. Hold all of this in your mind for a moment.


Let’s look at quite a different scenario. People of all ages come to Samui from all over the world – singles, couples and families. In some cases they qualify for free or subsidised medical treatment back home. But in the vast majority of cases, check-ups, treatments or operations have either a waiting list or are expensive. Knowing this, many people deliberately select a holiday destination where they can benefit. They can take a break, and at the same time take advantage of the lower cost of treatment.


At one end of the scale is that an operation is needed but there is a long waiting list. At the other end is something like cosmetic surgery – it’s nonessential but it’s cheaper abroad. And so there are many who come to Thailand, and to Samui, simply because the surgical procedures that they need are instantly obtainable and also cheaper, even factoring-in the airfares and accommodation.


And so to the point of this story. The human heart is a miracle. It works non-stop from long before we are actually born until the day we die. It’s a muscle-structure. But unlike every other muscle we have, it never ceases to expand and contract, pumping without ever stopping, every moment of every day, even when we sleep. It’s the strongest – the most resilient – organ in our body. It can stand up to all sorts of abuse. It can tolerate decades of cigarette smoke and other sorts of mistreatment. It can extend itself and pump harder and faster for long periods of time when necessary. It will do this even when it is not entirely healthy or no longer as strong as it used to be.


However, even though you might be 100 years old, mostly it’s not the heart itself which fails. Any ‘failure’ is usually due to a sudden lack of oxygen in the blood – it’s only when the heart can’t get enough oxygenrich blood passing through it that the heart muscles begin to fail. And when this happens it stops pumping blood around your body, and you suffocate through lack of oxygen, just as if someone has put a plastic bag over your head.Whether you plan it or not, knowing your way around the cardiology unit at Bangkok Hospital Samui might be a very good thing! It takes between five and ten minutes before permanent brain damage occurs.


Doctor Nat Chavanich is the resident cardiologist at Bangkok Hospital Samui in Chaweng. “Most folk have the impression that only older people have heart attacks,” he explained. “It’s not true. Indeed, if there’s a family history of this it can happen even at an early age. But what is more usual is that a combination of poor diet and lifestyle slowly damages your body. There’s a gradual build-up of material (usually cholesterol-based) inside the major arteries, particularly the big ones that lead in and out of the heart. This reduces the blood flow to the heart, and thus the amount of oxygen it can pump to the brain.”


“However, it can also result in congestion in the blood flow, causing a blood clot,” he continued, “and if this then moves along the big arteries, it will stick in one of the heart valves and stop it working. This is what we call a heart attack (myocardial infarction). But there are always early warning signs. If you can say ‘yes’ to the symptoms then you need to have a detailed checkup immediately.”


The first indication of an ‘at risk’ heart condition is when the heart has to pump faster in order for the body to get the oxygen it needs. At rest, a young, fit, athlete might have a heartbeat of only 40 beats per minute. A healthy adult with a desk job perhaps 80 to 100. But anyone with a consistent heart-rate of more than this needs an immediate cardiovascular examination.Whether you plan it or not, knowing your way around the cardiology unit at Bangkok Hospital Samui might be a very good thing!


“The warning signs to look out for are shortness of breath when doing ordinary things like climbing stairs,” Dr Nat elaborated. “Then palpitations – an irregular heartbeat. Perhaps you may also sweat, even though you’re not doing anything energetic. And if you also have a high resting-heartbeat, you’re at risk. You could have a heart attack at any time. However, the facilities at Bangkok Hospital Samui are firstrate. As far as cardiology goes, the following diagnostics and tests are available: treadmill test; ECG, echocardiography and X-rays; carotid Doppler ultrasound study, and CCTA (Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography) imaging of both the heart (and brain) and major supporting arteries.”


For most of us, heart attacks are like road accidents – we’re careful to try to avoid them, but if they happen then we have insurance, and we hope that they’re not going to be serious and we’ll get another chance. But, if you could go to some kind of fortune-teller and know in advance when you were going to crash your car, would you ignore it? It’s the same with your heart. But with this you can get a forecast. And it’s quicker, easier and cheaper to get it done here on Samui. It is better to get a check-up than to rely on your holiday insurance! Make it a part of your holiday planning. That way you’ll never regret it!


Rob De Wet


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