Abu Dhabi doctors urge patients to check family history

Medics urge the public to check their family history and find out if they are at high risk

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi on Al Maryah Island has been designated as a chest pain centre. Pawan Singh / The National

UAE residents have been urged to check their family history to ensure they are not at high risk of heart disease without their knowledge.

Doctors have stressed the importance of understanding relatives' heart health as it can provide a vital warning given the prevalence of conditions associated with sudden cardiac death in the UAE.

While poor diet and lifestyle are commonly understood contributors to heart disease, specialists at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi are highlighting genetic factors that can play a role.

Understanding risk factors and receiving screening can be life-saving, allowing doctors to deliver preventative care as soon as possible, medics said.

“I’ve treated patients who have lost siblings and other relatives to cardiac death at very young ages. There are genetic factors at play here, and I urge anyone with a family history of unexplained cardiac death to get screened as soon as possible, as there are potentially life-saving treatments available,” says Dr Khalid Almuti, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Heart & Vascular Institute.

A survey conducted by Cleveland Clinic revealed that 51 percent of surveyed UAE nationals aged between 18 and 29 were unaware of the role family history plays in heart disease. Experts agree that people with a family history are significantly more likely to develop some form of heart disease over their lifetimes.

“The good news is that, provided people are screened for conditions such as ventricular fibrillation, that cause cardiac death, we have a variety of tools at our disposal to manage them and potentially prevent unnecessary loss of young lives," said Dr Almuti.


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"One of my patients, who lost a number of close family members, came for genetic testing and we found evidence that suggested she was at extremely high risk.

"We were able to implant a defibrillator next to her heart to deliver life-saving therapy should she experience cardiac arrest. In other cases, when the findings are inconclusive, we can implant a very small remote monitoring device under the skin that alerts the patient and our healthcare team if it detects any hint of abnormal rhythms."

Abnormal heart rhythms can cause unexpected cardiac arrest when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions.

When this happens, blood is not delivered to the rest of the body, requiring immediate emergency treatment to save the patient’s life. While people may experience a racing heartbeat, or a feeling of dizziness before cardiac arrest, more than half of all cases occur without prior symptoms.