The St. George’s Adult Cardiology Clinic which moved into its own facility in Grand Anse, St. George’s three years ago, continues to treat patients with heart complaints and diseases. Through a referral only policy, the cardiology clinic offers its services – free of charge. Sophisticated heart tests and screenings that are available to Grenadians at the facility or officiated by one of the visiting cardiologist at the general hospital, include but not limited to: angiography, electrocardiogram, transthoracic echocardiography and pacemaking interrogation. Patients may be referred to the clinic, by their doctor when they exhibit persistent symptoms that are consistent with cardiac distress such as chest pain often described as heavy, pressing or sometimes tight. Other patients may experience shortness of breath without necessarily having done anything strenuous.
Dr. Johansen A. Sylvester, B. Sc. M.D., the Director and Coordinator of the Visiting Cardiology Program, under the umbrella of St. George’s University, is much more comfortable in the twenty-four hundred square feet floor facility provided by the Catholic Church of Grand Anse, “We have moved up from just a stethoscope and a desire, to being able to see patients more comfortably in this facility. Three years ago we were at the General Hospital. We had to go to the General Hospital and kind of barter and bargain for space – and it is tight [in] there. And the resources are limited. We were limited to the number patients we saw and the quality of care we administered to them because of this.” Surgeries to implant pacemakers or change its batteries, still however take place at the General Hospital.
As a result of the Visiting Cardiology Program, which functions through donations from companies such as Merck, St. Jude’s Hospital and private donations, over 30 patients have received pacemakers. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a pacemaker is a small device that’s placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. This device uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate. Pacemakers can also relieve some arrhythmia symptoms, such as fatigue and fainting and help a person who has abnormal heart rhythms resume a more active lifestyle.
A cross-sectional study of adult Grenadians between 2005 and 2007, published in 2012 entitled, An Epidemiologic Transition of Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Carriacou and Petite Martinique, Grenada: the Grenada Heart Project, 2005-2007 stated that, there is a great shift in unhealthy food choices being preferred by the younger generation. It also reported that unless there is a change in diet, the number of locals that will develop cardiovascular disease (CVD) will increase, “A dramatic increase in CVD in the next 10 to 20 years is expected, particularly given the dietary patterns among younger Grenadians, who are consuming less fish and more red meat, poultry, fried meats, and other fried foods than their older counterparts. Additionally, these dietary patterns are more pronounced among women than among men.” Unhealthy diets, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol are sited by the World Health Organization sites as causes of heart disease. “Behavioural risk factors are responsible for about 80% of coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease,” the organization’s website states.
Although the cardiology clinic is available in Grenada, it must be emphasized that anyone showing signs or symptoms of a heart attack should seek immediate medical assistance by going to the nearest hospital or calling for an ambulance to be taken for treatment. The five major symptoms of a heart attack are: pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back; feeling weak, light-headed, or faint; chest pain or discomfort; pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder and/or shortness of breath.