Heart disease may be on the rise, but the battle isn't out of our hands

The latest superdrug in town has people talking, but as always, there is no better cure than prevention

Fatal diseases can be warded off with a modicum of physical exercise.  Pawan Singh  /  The National
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Invented in the mid-1990s, statins have so far been the chief weapon in the medical fight against heart disease. Countless lives have been saved by lowering cholesterol in patients who have suffered heart attacks with the use of statins. But while lowering the risk of repeat heart attacks, statins haven't fully averted them, not to mention their side effects.

More recently, a new "superdrug" offers fresh hope to people at risk of heart disease and even cancer. As The National reported on Monday, scientists have discovered that canakinumab, an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat juvenile arthritis, could slash repeat heart attacks by 25 per cent, twice the success rate of statins.

Scientific breakthroughs that can save lives must always be welcomed, but they should not obscure the fact that individual responsibility is indispensable to lowering the risk of illness. The stresses, strains, distractions and temptations of modern life have combined to create a crisis that must urgently be addressed. As The National noted earlier this month, GCC countries rank in the top 15 for obesity. The obesity rate in the UAE, double the world average, has, in turn, contributed to the growth in diabetes and heart disease.

While the risk of developing heart disease can never be reduced to zero, contributory factors can be mitigated to control the rates. In addition, the arrival of “superdrugs” on the market should not lull people into complacency. An ounce of prevention, as Benjamin Franklin said, is better than a pound of cure. Fatal diseases can be warded off with a modicum of physical activity. And setting aside time to switch off from the world can relieve the destructive stress brought on by the demands of modern life. These two simple steps can make a world of difference. Their importance cannot be overstated.

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