More than half of the UAE population has a relative or friend with a heart condition, according to a new survey.
The study, commissioned by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, surveyed 1,010 people in the country.
Fifty-three per cent of the participants said they have a close friend or relative with the condition, while 12 per cent have received a personal diagnosis of heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the UAE and globally, but the condition can be prevented with regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Of those asked, 53 per cent said they had not had their heart health checked in the past two years.
“These results make clear the tragic impact that heart disease has on our community,” said Dr Ronney Shantouf, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
“Each and every heart disease diagnosis ripples out from the patient to their family and friends, naturally causing a great deal of anguish for all concerned.
"It doesn’t have to be this way; most heart disease cases could be prevented and that is really the driving force behind our campaign for healthier hearts, together.”
Positive findings in the survey were a strong awareness of the risk factors for heart disease, with 78 per cent of respondents saying they were aware of the causes. While 77 per cent knew heart disease was preventable, almost one in three of those asked (30 per cent) had never had their heart checked by a doctor.
Physicians recommend more than 150 minutes of exercise a week to help prevent heart disease.
People over 45 were in the highest risk group of those surveyed, but 49 per cent had also not been to a doctor for a cardiac assessment for more than two years.
Women were also less likely to see a doctor for a heart problem than other ailments, with 35 per cent never visited a clinic for a cardiac check.
The most common risk factors reported by those surveyed were high blood pressure (46 per cent), stress (45 per cent), cholesterol (44 per cent) and lack of exercise (44 per cent).
In addition, obesity and diabetes, conditions closely linked to severe heart disease, were, respectively, reported to affect 35 per cent and 30 per cent of those surveyed.
“It is very concerning that despite the tremendous strain heart disease places on our community and the high level of awareness we see, people are still reluctant to visit the doctor and take steps to prevent it,” Dr Shantouf said.
“It is vitally important that people visit a doctor, particularly if they are at higher risk.
“A proper cardiac evaluation along with some simple, heart healthy lifestyle changes could not only prevent a great deal of pain and anguish for yourselves, but your friends and family.”