Studies have shown that in the Middle East region, the average age for patients with heart attacks is at least ten years younger than in many western countries, said Hanan Obaid, head of the Acute and Chronic Diseases Unit at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
Heart disease was the theme of this week’s DHA Twitter clinic, ahead of World Heart Day, which falls on September 29.
In the UAE one in four deaths are attributed to heart attacks.
A high percentage of risk factors facing the population is the reason for such high prevalence of heart diseases in the UAE, said the doctor.
“We have a high percentage of people with diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.”
According to statistics of Rashid Hospital, 850 patients were admitted to the hospital in 2013 due to a heart attack. Of these, 40 per cent were diabetic, 40 per cent were hypertensive and 25 per cent had high cholesterol.
Further, approximately 50 per cent of patients in Rashid Hospital who are admitted for a heart attack are smokers.
In line with this year’s theme, doctors at the DHA pointed out the need to create heart-healthy environments at home and at work, as many of the risk factors are modifiable and could reduce the chance of getting a heart attack significantly.
High blood sugar (hypertension), tobacco use, raised blood glucose (diabetes), physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, cholesterol/lipids, overweight and obesity are all modifiable risk factors for heart diseases that are mainly related to lifestyle changes.
“Couples need to ensure that the food provided at home is heart-friendly for the entire family so that children can grow-up inculcating healthy eating habits from a younger age. It is challenging to change the lifestyle and eating patterns of children who have been hooked on fast-food,” said Obaid.
Similarly, physical activity should be encouraged early on, he believes. “It may sound slightly exaggerated but as physicians we feel extremely strong about the excessive use of iPads and video games which lead to sedentary lifestyles among the youth.
“While such activities are recreational as well, they need to be limited and during the summer months, indoor sports activities like badminton, indoor football etc. can be encouraged.”
Mossad Maksoud, cardiologist at Dubai Hospital, said: “Exercise is vital for prevention of coronary heart disease. This applies to healthy as well as unhealthy individuals. Exercise is both a primary and secondary form of prevention, which means that exercise is important for healthy individuals as well as those who have had a heart attack.
“Exercise helps control a host of lifestyle diseases including diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, all of which are factors that can lead to heart diseases.”
He said the bare minimum amount of exercise for an individual is 30 minutes of brisk walking five times a week.
As a means of prevention, regular screening is advocated. The first screening should begin at 20 years of age, Maksoud argued.
The first screening should include blood pressure, blood sugar, lipid profile and BMI screening. If any of the results are abnormal, screening should be frequent. If the results are normal, cholesterol needs to be screened once every five years and blood pressure every two years.
After the age of 35, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure should be tested at least once every year because in this region heart diseases occur at a younger age, say DHA specialists. If results are abnormal, screening should be more frequent.
Free screening campaigns are carried out across all DHA primary healthcare centres by DHA and AstraZeneca. People interested can contact 800 342 for more information.