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UAE: What is behind the jump in heart attacks among young people?

Many doctors in UAE have reported that they are seeing a higher number of heart attacks in young individuals over the past few years. Health experts attribute it to risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, smoking, hypertension and high cholesterol levels in younger adults in the emirate. Heart disease is estimated to cause a 18 million deaths worldwide annually and in UAE it is main cause of death from non-communicable diseases. And the mortality rate is higher in UAE as compared to other countries, according to health experts.

Dr. Juwairia Alali, President of Emirates Cardiac Society, said: “It is imperative that we begin making a positive change and raise awareness for all UAE citizens on the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. The UAE’s mortality rate has been 340 per 100,000 cases, which is double that in other countries.”

Dr. Juwairia Alali told Khaleej Times that hospitals across the UAE have reported an increasing number of people in their early 30s admitted due to heart attacks. Citing research data, she also said that incidences of premature coronary heart diseases in the UAE, which can result in heart attacks, occur about 10-15 years earlier than in people of Western countries.

Dr. Feras Bader, Department Chair, Cardiovascular Medicine, Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi had earlier said that many young patients in UAE are unaware of their risk factors because they refrain from visiting a doctor for a heart disease risk assessment until they experience major symptoms or a heart attack. “More than 95 per cent of patients with a major heart attack seen at the hospital in the last three years had at least one risk factor,” he said.

He has also noticed so many so many young patients come in with such aggressive cardiac disease. “The extent of damage to the arteries in patients as young as 30 and 40 years of age, now, is something that we would previously only see in patients over the age of 70. This tells us that people do not know the important health numbers, including their cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, and are also unaware about how these risk factors put a strain on their hearts. They also believe that this is an old age disease,” the physician said.

He also pointed out to many misconceptions about heart health. “Patients sometimes assume that if they feel fit or have a normal body mass index that they are immune to heart disease. But you can be thin and have high cholesterol because you may smoke – a big issue among youngsters here – or carry more abdominal fat because of a diet full of processed foods, all of which impact the heart. Similarly, people often underestimate the role that family history plays in increasing their risk of heart disease,” he said. Apart from regular health check-ups health experts say that patients can lower the risk of heart attacks through controlling cholesterol, maintaining proper weight, having a healthy diet, having regular exercise and avoiding smoking and drinking.

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