DUBAI // Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women around the world, killing as many as it does men, but females are less likely to see a doctor about symptoms.
Those who do are having the diseases, which are mostly preventable, diagnosed at a younger age.
“What was initially a disease that showed up at the age of 60 and above would now show up at the age of 40 or 45 and above – in the past decade or two,” said Dr Jairam Aithal, a cardiovascular specialist at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi.
Dr Aithal said a lot of sufferers developed chest pains in their 30s and 40s and ignored them.
Dr Nooshin Bazargani, a consultant cardiologist at Dubai Hospital, said the reluctance by women to have such problems checked was partly caused by misconceptions.
“It’s the false belief that cardiovascular disease is a disease of men, whereas worldwide cardiovascular disease kills as many women as men,” Dr Bazargani said. “Women think that they die of causes like cancer, like road traffic accidents, but not from cardiovascular disease.”
This weekend and next, women in the UAE will be the focus of an international campaign called Go Red for Women.
Events were planned for malls in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman for yesterday, today and next weekend.
They include testing for blood pressure, blood sugar, body-mass index and cholesterol, and quick health tips for shoppers.
“The aim of the campaign is to make women aware that they are at risk of having CVD as much as their husband or their brother or their father,” said Dr Bazargani, who is also a board member of the Emirates Cardiac Society.
Globally, more than 8.6 million women die each year from cardiovascular diseases.
In the UAE, 25 per cent of all deaths are caused by the disease, with as many women dying as men, the Emirates Cardiac Society says.
Ministry of Health statistics show that in 2010 the main cause of death for women in the UAE was cardiovascular disease, followed by cancer and road accidents, Dr Bazargani said.
She stressed the risk of heart disease could be controlled through factors such as diet, regular exercise and not smoking.
“We are calling on mothers to reduce their own risk factors as well as their family’s risk factors,” said Dr Barzagani said.
“We are trying to increase the attention of the medical professionals on cardiovascular disease in women, and also to prompt governments and policymakers to bring this topic high on the health agenda.”
The campaign will emphasise the benefits of enforcing bans on smoking in public places; providing affordable, healthy food in every public place; reducing the salt content in common products; regular national surveys of risk factors; and keeping accurate data on cases and deaths.
Dr Bazargani said a study of more than 8,000 patients who suffered heart attacks and were taken to hospital was conducted in 2008 in six Arabian Gulf countries, including the UAE.
Of the about 2,000 women who took part, 55 per cent had diabetes, 70 per cent had high blood pressure and 44 per cent had high cholesterol.
“They are all modifiable,” Dr Bazargani said. “You can control your blood pressure, you can control your blood-sugar and you can control your cholesterol.”
Majid Al Futtaim Properties, in conjunction with Dubai Health Authority and Emirates Cardiac Society, is supporting Go Red for Women.
Founded by the American Heart Association in 2004, the annual campaign is supported by more than 30 countries.
Participating malls in the UAE include Mall of the Emirates, Deira City Centre and Mirdif City Centre in Dubai, Ajman City Centre and Sharjah City Centre.