Six biggest health dangers facing residents

... and what you need to do to stay clear of them

If you too have witnessed the increase in public health awareness campaigns in the UAE in the recent months, then it is simply because the government and health authorities are taking action at the alarming figures that are rising around us.

With stressful lives giving way for more illnesses to knock on our doors, Emirates 24|7 takes action by listing the top six killers in the country and how you can give yourself a health check to reduce your risk.

1. Heart disease

According to statistics released earlier this year by the Ministry of Health, over 25 per cent of deaths in the UAE are caused by cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol levels, which are a major cause of heart disease.

And it’s not just the expat population that is at risk here. In a presentation on Preventive Health Measures and Public Health: The Role of Primary Care, Dr Cother Hajat, section head, public health programmes at the Health Authority Abu Dhabi, revealed that at least 71 per cent of Emiratis, averaging 35 years, have at least one risk factor. Meanwhile, eight per cent males and two per cent females are at high risk of developing cardiovascular diseases in the next 10 years.

Take action:  To minimise your risk, some lifestyle changes are important:

- Don’t smoke, and no, cutting down does not count.

- Limit your intake of alcohol.

- Start weight control immediately.

- Exercise regularly, even at home if the gym is not possible.

- Control high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

- Opt in for regular health checks, especially as you grow older.

- Meditate, or take up some breathing exercises

2. Diabetes

Over the last 10 years, the number of diabetes related deaths have increased by 45 per cent in the developing world, with the UAE in the forefront.

Recent figures from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) suggest that 285 million people are living with diabetes, worldwide, with an alarming five GCC countries featuring in the top eight countries in terms of diabetes prevalence as a percentage of the population.

In the UAE, diabetes currently affects 18.7 per cent of the UAE adult population, the second highest prevalence worldwide after the Pacific Ocean island of Nauru.

Studies into the death rates indicate that diabetes is generally under-reported, particularly in the cases of older persons with multiple conditions such as heart disease and hypertension. Because of this, the toll of diabetes is believed to be much higher than officially reported.

 While Type 1 diabetes is something you can be made aware of earlier in line, many people first become aware of Type 2 diabetes only when they develop one of its serious and life-threatening complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, blindness, sexual dysfunction and more.

Take action: To survive, people with Type 1 diabetes must have insulin delivered by injection or a pump. Many people with Type 2 diabetes can manage their blood glucose by doing the following:

- Follow a healthy diet.

- Exercising regularly.

- Losing excess weight, as research shows that by shedding just five per cent of your weight can cut your chances of getting worse by almost 90 per cent.

- Stop smoking

- Eat more fibre and slow-releasing carbs, which can lower cholesterol

- Read up on symptoms and if you feel your body has been acting out of sync lately, then have a fasting blood glucose test to confer.

3. Breast cancer

One out of eight women get diagnosed with breast cancer, making it the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women today (after lung cancer).

 According to WHO, more than 1.2 million people will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year worldwide, with the American Cancer Society estimating that around 213,000 women in the US will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year.

 Though much less common, breast cancer also occurs in men. An estimated 1,720 cases worldwide were diagnosed in men in 2006.

Take action:

- Get into the habit of performing self-examinations monthly, around the same time.

- Once you cross 40, annual mammograms are a must.

- If a member of your family has been diagnosed with breast cancer, then start the mammograms 10 years early.

- If unsure how to progress, consult a doctor.

- Cut back on alcohol and stop smoking.

- Start working out.

4. Obesity

The UAE is on the brink of a widespread obesity epidemic. As harsh as it may sound, the country’s penchant for unhealthy food has led to expanding waistlines, or so say studies, which reveal that approximately 20 per cent of the country’s population suffers from obesity — rising at a much higher rate than the US.Obesity is higher among females than males in the UAE with a ratio of 30/20 per cent, ranking the country fourth globally in terms of highest obesity ratio among women. The statistics showed that around 31 per cent of women are obese compared to around 18 per cent men.

Qatar and UAE were among the countries with the highest levels of adult obesity, with 45 per cent and 31 per cent of females considered obese, respectively.

Blame it on the sedentary lifestyles, the environment, the stress, the traffic or even the weather, but the sad fact is that we are going obese and doing just about nothing to prevent a health disaster.

Take action: Cut out the fat, and reach for a fitter lifestyle. Here’s how:

- Get moving. Climb the stairs, walk around the malls, run on the beach or even skirt around the parking lot on foot, but do it now.

- Daily dosage of shawarmas, burgers, pizzas and manakishes will only pile on more pounds. Pack a lunch from home, or switch to soups, salads or anything with more fibre and less fat.

- Low-fat, low-fat, low-fat.

- Join a gym or exercise at home but do it.

- Cut back of drinking, because if you are obese already the last thing you want is a bloated stomach thanks to the alcohol calories.

5. Stress

Inflation, soaring rents, extra hours at work, family squabbles and traffic all play an integral part in creating a stressful existence for us. With stress-related illnesses, including high blood pressure, insomnia, heart disease and early aging, creating an even more stressful environment, it’s time to nip the stress syndrome in the bud.

Take action:

- Take up meditation or yoga to relax you.

- Leave work later, by going to the gym to give your body a healthy workout and beating traffic.

- Start eating healthy, as energy foods emit beta-endorphins in the body and these feel-good hormones go a long way in reducing stress levels.

- Take a holiday. Even if you can’t get away for a few weeks, the weekend is a great time to spend time with the family and go away from the daily stresses.

6. Lung cancer

Statistics released by Al Ain’s Al Tawam Hospital reveal that 71.5 per cent of the lung cancer diseases patients in the UAE are males and 28.5 per cent are female. Also, 60 per cent of the lung cancer patients are in advanced stages and the majority of them are in their fifth and sixth decades

According to the Mayo Clinic, US, lung cancer has fast become the leading cause of cancer deaths in the world, with speculation showing that it just may even overtake heart disease in the near future.

Yet most of these lung cancer deaths can be prevented, because smoking accounts for nearly 90 per cent of lung cancer cases, with shisha smoking contributing to the increasing numbers.

Although your risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes you smoke, quitting smoking, even after many years, can significantly reduce your chances of developing the disease.

Take action: To minimise your risk, incorporate the following lifestyle alterations:

- Don’t smoke, or at least start cutting down now.

- Avoid places where you can be a victim of passive smoking.

- Limit your intake of saturated fats.

- Exercise regularly.

- Control high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

- Get screened regularly.


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