The international journal Congenital Heart Disease (Wiley Periodicals, Inc.), recently published a scientific paper describing the findings of a study conducted by Dr. Maryanne Caruana and Prof. Victor Grech on a group of GUCH (Grown-Ups with Congenital Heart defects) patients under follow-up at Mater Dei Hospital in Malta. The scientific paper concentrated on the lifestyle habits of these patients compared to those of general Maltese patients of similar age and gender.
One would expect that GUCH patients, who often would have been followed up by specialists since infancy and subsequently would have received strong advice on what habits to avoid, to lead a healthier lifestyle compared to their peers who were not born with a heart defect. The aim of this study was to determine if this was indeed the case and did so by comparing questionnaire answers from 125 GUCH patients with those of a random group of age- and sex-matched Maltese people. The lifestyle habits studied were tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, substance misuse, poor dental care and low physical activity. Maltese GUCH patients were found to smoke less and to have better dental care compared to their non-congenital heart disease peers. On the other hand, GUCH patients exercise significantly less than their peers, even when their heart disease was very mild. Male GUCH patients appeared to drink more frequently than their male peers. There were no differences in substance misuse between the 2 groups.
This study has shown that, while, as expected, Maltese GUCH patients demonstrate a healthier lifestyle in some aspects, there is way for improvement. In particular, GUCH patients in Malta hold back from carrying out regular physical exercise, even when their heart disease is mild and thus exercise is safe. These results suggest that more education directed at the importance of safe levels of exercise in patients with congenital heart disease is an issue that needs addressing locally.
The abstract for this paper can be found by following the link below: