UAE patients ‘as young as 28’ having heart attacks

Risk of heart disease starts 10 years earlier in Emiratis that in US or UK, and smoking and diabetes are main drivers.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi on Al Maryah Island has been designated as a chest pain centre. Pawan Singh / The National
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ABU DHABI // UAE patients as young as 28 are having heart attacks, with risk of heart disease starting 10 years earlier here than in western countries, doctors say.

One-in-five patients with chest pains is having a heart attack or has an underlying condition such as unstable angina, said Dr Ahmad Edris, staff physician in cardiovascular medicine and interventional cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi Heart and Vascular Institute.

“The risk of having heart disease in the Emirati population is 10 years below the average age of patients in the UK or US,” said Dr Edris.

Men and women in the US or Europe are considered at risk for heart attacks between the ages of 50 and 60, but in the UAE, it is between 40 and 50, he said.

“This is due to increased levels of smoking and diabetes in the UAE,” said Dr Edris. “The prevalence of those is higher as compared to the other countries.”

Many patients with heart disease are in their mid-30s, but there have been younger cases, he said.

“I have treated a 28-year-old male patient for heart attack and, although this is an unusual case, it does happen,” said Dr Edris. “He was a smoker and had underlying clotting disorder.”

Failure to spot symptoms and get immediate treatment is a common problem that can be life-threatening if treatment is delayed by as little as six hours, he said.

“Patients sometimes come in with nausea, thinking they have some sort of flu only to find out that their [electrocardiogram] is abnormal or there is injury to a heart muscle,” he said.

“They are shocked when they hear this, because the results are much more critical than they thought and we often take them to see the arteries to explain what has gone wrong.

“Some wait for days before addressing their issues, which usually leads to a heart attack. Every minute you wait, a heart muscle dies.”

Nearly 2,000 patients from Gulf countries visited the hospital last year for chest pain symptoms or related heart conditions.

The most common symptoms are chest pain or pressure, pain moving to the back of the neck or left arm that often worsens when walking or using stairs, and feelings of suffocation or nausea.

“If these symptoms are ignored, it could lead to a heart attack in the worst scenario. People are putting their lives and their quality of life at risk by not getting the right treatment,” said Dr Edris.

The Health Authority Abu Dhabi has designated the hospital as a chest pain centre, so the hospital will treat any patient with those symptoms who visits.

Patients will be tested for heart attack, which is not always the cause of chest pain but is life-threatening.

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in the UAE.