Residents are being urged to welcome in the new year by paying closer attention to their hearts, in a new campaign by the Zayed Giving Initiative.
The Voluntary Medical Convoys campaign, which will run until next January, will promote services that can help spot heart and chronic diseases early on, and help to prevent them.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the UAE and affects many patients in their mid-40s – between 10 to 15 years earlier than is most common in Europe.
In 2011, diseases of the circulatory system were the biggest killer in Abu Dhabi, resulting in 1,089 deaths. “This is a part of the 2013 strategy to increase awareness of heart disease,” said Dr Adel Al Shamri, the chief executive of the initiative and executive director of the Emirates World Humanitarian Mobile Hospital, which delivers free care in foreign countries.
From doctors to nurses to medical technicians, everyone who takes part in the year-long campaign will be a volunteer, said the doctor.
Participants will work alongside the World Heart Foundation, travelling across the country with a mobile health facility.
The campaign will also include educational seminars.
“Heart disease is the most common disease [in the UAE] but 95 per cent can be prevented by an increase in awareness programmes, something that has been proven by international statistics,” said Dr Al Shamri.
People should not only be taught more about the disease itself, but should be wary of the factors that can lead to it, he said.
Basic information such as learning how to keep blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol under control should be taught, he added.
Although they may seem obvious to some, others still need to be made aware that quitting smoking and making lifestyle changes – be it reducing stress, increasing exercise or improving diet – can also cut the risk of heart disease.
“We also focus on early diagnosis by screening people using portable equipment.”
The campaign has spread far across the UAE border, providing heart operations for patients in Egypt, Bosnia, Kenya, Sudan and Morocco.
So far, more than 3,000 operations have been carried out, with many more scheduled.