DUBAI // Heart disease is still Dubai’s biggest killer, responsible for 30 per cent of deaths, latest survey results released on Tuesday show.
The survey, part of a plan to develop a blueprint for tackling urgent health concerns, showed cardiac disease was becoming more prevalent in younger people.
“It is common for younger people to have a poor lifestyle here as we see with obesity and prevalence of diabetes,” said Dr Rajeev Lochan, a cardiologist at Medeor 24x7 Hospital.
“Along with high cholesterol, it is interlinked and often leads to heart disease. There is a younger population here and they are often working in stressful conditions.
“In the heat there is a thickening of the blood, which can be a problem. I’ve seen labourers who have had heart attacks. They are young, take exercise and don’t have a bad diet, but still they have heart attacks.”
The DHA and Dubai Statistics Centre surveyed 3,298 Emirati and expatriate families in 2014 on their health.
More than a fifth of those taking part were smokers (21.9 per cent), and 11.9 per cent were obese, well below the UAE figure of 66 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women quoted in the 2013 Global Burden of Disease Study by the University of Washington.
But 31.9 per cent of respondents were borderline obese.
A combination of heat, stress and inactivity were leading factors behind the numbers, doctors said, but smoking and a bad diet created the perfect storm for heart disease in a relatively young population.
“The figures are definitely higher than in Europe,” Dr Lochan added. “Most of the UAE is similar, but Dubai has a high proportion of expats working in a stressful environment, so the figures for heart disease may be higher than elsewhere in the country.”
The problem is not unique to Dubai, said Dr Jairam Aithal, a cardiovascular consultant at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi.
“Like Dubai, heart disease is also higher in Abu Dhabi than elsewhere in the world and is steadily growing,” Dr Aithal said.
“Diabetes and obesity is twice the level seen in the US and Europe, so these heart disease figure are not a surprise. Typically, Americans present with heart disease at the age of 65 on average. Here is it is nearer to 45.
“With compulsory health insurance there are more checks so more people are diagnosed with these conditions. That will have an effect on the figures, too.”
The survey showed that Emiratis were more at risk of high blood pressure (18.5 per cent) than other families, with female Emiratis even more at risk.
Figures showed 19.1 per cent of nationals had high cholesterol, with Emirati men who took part recording higher levels than women. It is a key factor in cardiac disease, narrowing arteries and reducing blood flow to the heart.
Half of those who replied to questionnaires said they ate at least one piece of fruit a day, while 42.7 per cent said they ate vegetables daily.
Humaid Al Qatami, chairman and director general of the DHA, said results from the first population health check since 2009 would help to shape future care.
“Compiling such information is important as it will guide the authority in creating strategies and plan effective initiatives,” he said.
“These initiatives aim to find solutions and raise awareness about relevant health issues in Dubai.”