The UAE is taking part in the World Health Organisation's 1,000 Cities, 1,000 Lives campaign this weekend – but professionals in the country say they are either too busy or too tired to take good care of their health.
The five-day campaign, which ends today, was held in conjunction with World Health Day to highlight the theme Urban Health Matters.
According to WHO, all population growth over the next 30 years will take place in urban areas, creating health challenges related to water, the environment, violence, non-communicable and lifestyle diseases related to the use of tobacco, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and other factors.
The UAE organised a number of activities during the campaign with the Ministry of Health aiming to educate 25,000 people on ways to change the patterns of their daily lives. However, professionals say they are either too busy or too tired after a long day at work to pay much attention to their health.
"I work for very long hours," A Percival, a manager working for an airline in Dubai, told Emirates Business. "I am usually in the office by 8.30am and more often than not, I work late into the evening as we are a service industry and have to solve all issues on the spot for passengers and staff alike.
"By the time I get home, I am so tired I don't have time to exercise. It's unhealthy but there is nothing I can do."
Deepika Mittal, a senior executive at a research firm, said: "I do exercise over the weekend but I need to improve my eating habits. By the time I get home I am too tired to cook. So we usually end up ordering food from outside, which is anything but healthy."
R Joseph, who works for a public relations firm, said: "I usually don't have the time for a proper lunch break, so I end up eating at my desk so that I can continue working on my computer and don't lose precious time."
Doctors say that working long hours and not taking time out to exercise, eat healthy meals or take a break to give your mind and eyes a much-needed rest affects mental and physical health.
Dr Elhady Al Tayeb Abbas, Head of Internal Medicine at RAK Hospital, said major health issues faced by professionals in the UAE are diabetes, hypertension, obesity, back aches, cardiac conditions and stress.
"Apart from these, compliance is also a major problem as patients do not follow the line of treatment due to their hectic lives. Appointments are missed, medicines are not taken according to the schedule. This leads to further complications.
"Another issue that is rather disturbing is the occurrence of accidents. People travel long distances, and are not rested enough due to a lack of adequate sleep."
Dr Prashant Bhatia, ophthalmologist and Medical Director at Vista Healthcare Clinic in Dubai, said: "People who work for long hours at a computer without a break complain of headaches, blurred vision, neck pain, fatigue, eyestrain, dry, irritated eyes and difficulty refocusing the eyes."
He said long hours in front of computers can also lead to Computer Vision Syndrome, a common temporary condition caused by focusing our eyes on a computer monitor for long periods of time.
Both pointed to the importance of exercise, healthy diet and developing hobbies for working people, no matter how busy they were, indicating that failure to do so would negatively impact their health. Playing sports or pursuing a hobby like painting or photography helps a person to focus on something outside of work and help them to de-stress.
Dr Abbas said: "No matter how busy a person is, two things are critical – exercise and eating right."
Dr Bhatia said: "Proper rest for the eye and its muscles is recommended to relieve eyestrain. A routinely recommended approach is to consciously blink the eyes every now and then and look out the window at a distant object – doing this gives the eyes a rest."