x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Heart attacks strike 20 years earlier in the UAE

People in the UAE suffer from heart attacks 20 years earlier due to smoking, obesity and a lack of exercise, Rashid Hospital says.

Dr Mohammed Al Raqabani, a cardiologist at Rashid Hospital, and other health experts warn that heart attacks occur earlier in the UAE due to obesity, smoking and lack of exercise. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Dr Mohammed Al Raqabani, a cardiologist at Rashid Hospital, and other health experts warn that heart attacks occur earlier in the UAE due to obesity, smoking and lack of exercise. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // Smoking, obesity and a lack of exercise cause heart attacks in the UAE 20 years earlier than the worldwide average.

The 850 heart-attack patients admitted to Rashid Hospital in Dubai in 2013 were disproportionately younger than such patients elsewhere in the world.

“The average age of the first heart attack … is 45 years. The global average is 65 years. This highlights the magnitude of the problem,” said Dr Mohammed Al Raqabani, a cardiologist at the hospital.

Of those 850 patients, 40 per cent were diabetic, 40 per cent were hypertensive and 25 per cent had high levels of cholesterol.

Heart-disease patients in the UAE are also at least 10 years younger than in the West, Dr Al Raqabani said.

Cardiovascular disease is the world’s leading cause of death, claiming about 17.3 million lives a year and about 30 per cent of deaths worldwide. It accounts for one in four deaths in the UAE.

“Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart attacks and in the UAE more than 20 per cent of the population suffers from this disease. Similarly, we have a high percentage of people with obesity and high blood pressure.”

He said another major risk factor for heart attacks was tobacco consumption: about 50 per cent of those who suffer heart attacks are smokers.

Dr Al Raqabani said there was also a need to educate people that lack of exercise was an independent risk factor for a heart attack.

“Exercise is vital for prevention of coronary heart disease,” he said. “This applies to healthy as well as unhealthy individuals.

“Exercise is both a primary and secondary form of prevention. This means that exercise is important for healthy individuals as well as those who have had a heart attack.

“It helps to control a host of lifestyle diseases including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure – all of which are factors that can lead to heart diseases.”

He said the bare minimum amount of exercise was 30 minutes of brisk walking, five times a week.

The high risk of heart disease in the region can also be attributed to a poor diet and the high consumption of fat and carbohydrates, said Dr Al Raqabani.

He advocated regular screening that should begin at 20 years of age and include blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index tests.

If the results were normal, cholesterol needs to be screened once every five years and blood pressure every two years. For abnormal results a screening should be more frequent.

Dubai Health Authority says cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure should be tested at least once a year after the age of 35 because of the prevalence of heart disease among the young in the region.

The figures were revealed during a “smart clinic” run by the authority at the first non-communicable chronic diseases congress in the UAE, held at the weekend.

The conference tackled lifestyle diseases and highlighted an alarming rise in early deaths caused non-communicable conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory conditions.

jbell@thenational.ae