CARDIOVASCULAR disease (CVD) is characterised by a broad collection of medical disorders affecting the heart or blood vessels. Out of the many CVDs, coronary heart disease (which may present acutely as a heart attack) accounts for most of the CVD burden across many developed countries.

Unhealthy lifestyles have led to more CVD cases among working adults. Globally, CVDs are expensive to treat, and managing CVD costs more than any other diseases.

In 2017, an estimated US$378 billion (RM1.76 trillion) was lost due to CVDs in the US while the direct healthcare cost of CVDs in Malaysia was estimated at around RM3.93 billion during the same year.

In the US, more than half of the incurred expenses was spent to cover the direct costs of CVDs, which included medical fees for CVD patients to seek therapeutic treatment in hospitals. The remaining portion of the lost money was attributed to the indirect costs of CVD, which may have included premature death as a result from a heart attack.

In addition, most working-age adults who suffer from a heart attack require time off work to recover. In European countries, 67% to 93% of heart attack patients returned to work within three months. However, up to 24% of the heart attack survivors quit working after a year due to multiple reasons. Such absenteeism from their workplace or early retirement may further lead to personal income loss or reduced economic output for employers.

Besides the well-known lung injury, Covid-19 infection may also lead to cardiovascular complications, secondary to the direct viral effect of SARS-CoV-2 causing heart muscle inflammation. As such, Covid-19 survivors have increased risks of getting CVD for at least a year post-Covid infection, as compared with healthy individuals who had not acquired Covid infection before.

Even mild, non-hospitalised Covid-19 survivors may get a CVD (manifested in the forms of stroke, heart rhythm irregularity, blood clot formation or heart failure) after the acute infection has resolved. Such observation was apparent among working adults who lacked the traditional risk factors of CVD, namely diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

As we are transitioning to the endemic phase of Covid-19 in Malaysia, we must learn to live with the virus in the least disruptive way by adopting a healthy lifestyle and public health measures to prevent infection.

In summary, the resulting economic impact of CVDs is substantial. Therefore, it is important to practise primordial or primary prevention of CVDs.

All adults aged 40 years or above should take the initiative to undergo an annual cardiovascular health screening at their nearest health facility. Such an early investment in health is crucial for prompt detection and treatment of any modifiable risk factors of CVDs.

The views expressed here are solely those of the writers, namely Dr Yap Jun Fai, Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming and Dr Lim Yin Cheng. They are affiliated with the Social and Preventive Medicine Department, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya and Public Health Department, University Malaya Medical Centre. Comments: