x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

High obesity rates put 20% of Dubai women at risk of getting severe sleep disorder

A survey has found that soaring obesity rates have put one in five women in Dubai at risk of developing a sleep disorder.

One in five women in Dubai are at high risk of developing a severe, obesity-related sleep disorder that could lead to problems including depression, heart disease and diabetes, a study has found. Ryan Carter / The National
One in five women in Dubai are at high risk of developing a severe, obesity-related sleep disorder that could lead to problems including depression, heart disease and diabetes, a study has found. Ryan Carter / The National

DUBAI // One in five women in Dubai are at high risk of developing a severe, obesity-related sleep disorder that could lead to problems including depression, heart disease and diabetes, a study has found.

The study, by specialists at Rashid Hospital, aimed to find the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (Osas) and its relationship with obesity.

“The high-risk level of Osas among adult females in the UAE is very high and this is a real, serious public-health threat,” said Dr Hassan Al Hariri, a respiratory specialist at Rashid Hospital in Dubai and co-author of the study.

“The finding of our study is really striking, showing higher prevalence of obstructive sleep apnoea in the female respondents compared to other studies in the Gulf region.”

Dr Al Hariri said women needed to be more aware of the disorder.

Of the 704 women surveyed, 137 (19.5 per cent) met the criteria for high-risk Osas. More than 70 per cent of that group had a body mass index above 30, classed as clinically obese.

In the US, about 9 per cent of the population has numerous symptoms of Osas, said Dr Al Hariri. A similar study in Jordan showed about 14 per cent of women were at high risk.

“This indicates that the females in Dubai, predominantly UAE nationals, are more prone to Osas risk compared to other females in the Middle East or other regions in the world,” said Dr Al Hariri.

“This finding should be taken into account when planning the women and health strategies in UAE with emphasis on early diagnosis and management of obesity and Osas.”

The study surveyed expatriate and Emirati women aged between 14 and 75. The highest prevalence of Osas was in the 51 to 60 age group.

In adults, the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnoea is excess weight and obesity.

In the UAE, 32.7 per cent of the population are classed as obese, putting the country in 22nd place out of 191 nations, the CIA handbook says.

Osas is caused by the collapse of the upper airway and is characterised by snoring and repetitive pauses in breathing that can last minutes, leading to fragmented sleep, fatigue and impaired cognition. Women are more likely to have the condition.

“Osas is a common medical condition with significant adverse medical and public health consequences,” said Dr Al Hariri.

“It is linked to high morbidity and mortality in both men and women. Thus it is crucial to increase the awareness of the medical community about the high prevalence of Osas in women.”

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention say sleep deprivation is associated with injuries, chronic diseases, mental illness, poor quality of life, increased healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Sleep problems are critical contributors to chronic conditions including obesity, the organisation says.

The authors of the Dubai study said it was the first of its kind in the emirate and they hoped the data would give authorities information to help to reduce the burden of Osas.

“Given the high prevalence of Osas in the female population, it is important that a public awareness programme including new health policies for obese females would play a very important role to control the prevalence of obesity and consequent Osas in Dubai,” they conclude.

“Patients who are at high risk of sleep apnoea may benefit from proper screening, evaluation and appropriate counselling by the primary healthcare physicians.”

The study, Sleep Breathing Disorders in Female Population of Dubai, was conducted by Bassam Mahboub, Basil Safarainni, Dr Al Hariri and Mayank Vats, all from the sleep disorders centre at Rashid Hospital.

The survey was done through a questionnaire to a random selection of female patients visiting 20 primary healthcare centres run by Dubai Health Authority between September 2011 and March 2012.

jbell@thenational.ae