Rapid Rise in Heart Surgery for Elderly
Some 14 percent of Koreans are over the age of 65, and the number of seniors diagnosed with heart disease and requiring surgery is rapidly rising.
But because of the country's modern health care system, elderly patients like this one are living well into their twilight years.
[Interview : Lee Kyung , Heart Surgery Patient
] "I really felt that I was going to die. But look at me now. I'm an 81-year-old man who had surgery and I'm alive."
As our bodies age, the valves and arteries in our hearts begin to thicken and become stiff.
This can lead to a serious health condition called aortic stenosis, a disease that narrows blood flow through the heart.
Symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain, and severe fainting spells.
If left untreated, the two-year survival rate stands at a mere 50 percent.
In other advanced aging societies in Europe and the U.S., patients in their 80s account for nearly 20 percent of the total number of surgeries.
And it seems that Korea is following the global trend.
Because of advances in medical science, the survival rate for open-heart surgery patients among the elderly has greatly improved and provided a new lease on life for many to better enjoy their golden years.
[Interview : Choi Gam-sok , Heart Surgery Patient in 2001] "My shortness of breath has gone away. For example, now I can climb a stairway with a hundred steps without stopping once."
[Interview : Park Pyo-won, Professor of Cardiac Surgery
Seoul Medical Center] "If you use valve tissue, you don't have to use anticoagulants. Also the new valves have a 90 percent chance of functioning properly for 15 years or more in your lifetime."
Medical experts advise that age shouldn't automatically exclude surgical treatments.
Excluding illnesses such as cancer, elderly citizens should not hesitate to opt for surgery for serious health problems and take advantage of the best that modern medicine has to offer.
Paul Yi, Arirang News
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