DUBAI // People in the UAE are vulnerable to heart disease or heart attacks from a younger age than those in the West, according to experts.
Speaking on the sidelines of the launch of an emirates-wide health campaign for World Heart Day, Dr Obaid Al Jasim, a consultant and head of cardiothoracic surgery department at Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said: "The average age that people start to experience heart problems [in the UAE] is 45, 10 to 15 years younger than in Europe."
Heart disease is the leading cause of deaths in the UAE, and cardiovascular problems account for 22 per cent of deaths in the country, said Dr Fahad Omar Baslaib, head of the cardiology unit at Rashid Hospital.
The leading cause of heart disease is diabetes, followed by smoking, lack of exercise and obesity, said Dr Baslaib.
"Diabetes can cause atherosclerosis, a hardening of the heart's arteries," he said.
Dubai Health Authority clinics alone treat about 15,000 outpatients annually with cardiovascular illnesses, and more than 3,000 inpatients with nearly 300 adult open-heart surgeries per year.
Dr Baslaib attributed these "alarming numbers" to an unhealthy lifestyle carried by many in the country.
"People smoke, they do not exercise and eat a lot of junk food," he said. "Stress is also an important factor."
Experts were speaking on the sidelines of a DHA campaign that aims to raise awareness about heart disease and prevention methods. Throughout the campaign, the DHA will be screening visitors for any risk factors that may lead to heart problems. This includes measuring cholesterol and sugar levels in the blood, calculating the individual's body mass index and blood pressure, followed by a consultation with a doctor to translate the results into meaningful feedback.
Dubai will be hosting the World Heart Federation's World Cardiology Conference in April. The conference, making its first Middle East appearance, will draw more than 15,000 professionals from the healthcare industry.