Heart disease strikes earlier in Emirates

People with acute heart disease are dying five years earlier in the UAE than in other Gulf countries, according to a new study.

ABU DHABI // People with acute heart disease are dying five years earlier in the UAE than in other Gulf countries, according to a new study. The Gulf Registry of Acute Coronary Events compared mortality rates for patients being treated for the condition in hospitals in Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE. It found that, on average, people with acute coronary disease in the UAE died at 52.7 years of age while in the other countries the average was 57.2 years.

Dr Nazar Albustani, director of invasive cardiology at the capital's Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, who presented the study at the weekend, blamed a mixture of lifestyle and genes. "In addition to the increasing prevalence of multiple factors, like diabetes and smoking, I think there is genetics behind this," he said. "In addition to the factors that we know, there are factors that we don't know." High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, smoking and diabetes are the four main causes of heart disease. Most people in the UAE are affected by at least some of these.

Dr Azan Binbrek, head of cardiology at Dubai's Rashid Hospital, said: "Diabetes is a big problem here. Cigarettes are cheap so everyone smokes. High blood pressure and cholesterol are as prevalent as in western countries and there is a lack of exercise, which is not good." "Things like diabetes and high blood pressure are preventable risk factors. We can do something about it ? it's not like cancer. We can delay or prevent the disease with lifestyle changes."

Heart disease is responsible for 28 per cent of deaths in the UAE, he said. Dr Eman Alhatou, a cardiologist at Dubai Hospital, suggested stress levels in Dubai were higher than in the rest of the region. "Our excessively busy lifestyle contributes to cardiovascular disease - we don't have time to exercise, we have too much stress, we have high blood pressure and we eat badly," she said. Many doctors warn that patients are not concerned about the risk of heart disease until it is too late.

"People can be at high risk without any symptoms," said Dr Alhatou. "People can get organ damage from long-standing high blood pressure." Heart attacks can occur without warning, and leave lasting damage, as can strokes. "The brain can be affected by these risk factors. There can be no symptoms and then suddenly you can wake up without the ability to move one side of your body." Doctors stressed the need for public awareness campaigns.

"Advertising the risks is important," said Dr Alhatou, "We have to focus more on it because this will give people access to free check-ups." Children should also be educated about the risks, the doctors said. "We need to build more areas for children to play safely - where they can do exercise, play football," said Dr Binbrek. "Too often children are just kept at home, playing on the computer and eating hamburgers. What do we expect? They are going to pay the price later."

amcmeans@thenational.ae

Published: October 14, 2008 04:00 AM

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