Dubai: Heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are on the rise in the UAE with the threshold of heart attack incidence now falling between 30-40 years of age in the country, point out health care experts.
Calling for greater awareness, preventive action and education of the community to avert heart disease, international cardiac specialists were speaking at the fifth edition of the ‘Shake Heart’ Conference that was held virtually and broadcast from Dubai.
Shake is an acronym for Save Heart Attacks Key Efforts and the annual conference takes a look at various ways of preventing heart attacks and early intervention with greater awareness of new medical techniques and preventive screening.
What is CVD?
CVD is an umbrella term used to describe a group of all heart-related diseases such as Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), atherosclerosis (thickening of the arterial walls due to build-up of fatty deposits), Arrhythmia (change in heart rhythm), leading to angina (chest pain), heart attacks and ischemic strokes, many of which can be fatal. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), CVD causes 40 per cent of the deaths annually around the world.
Heart disease can be prevented
Dr Brajesh Mittal, consultant, interventional cardiology at the Medcare Hospital, Dubai, and chairman, founder of the Shake Heart Foundation, told Gulf News: “There is considerable evidence that heart disease can be prevented with early intervention and diagnosis. Our mission is to prevent the first heart attack; treat it fast if it happens and do our best to prevent any further attack.”
Heart disease and high blood pressure continue to be on the rise in UAE, according to the results of a 2019 wellness survey. While CVD has a higher rate of incidence among Asians in general, as a subset, Indians are highly susceptible.
Approximately, seven out of ten Indian expatriates in Abu Dhabi, and six out of ten Indian expatriates in Dubai and the rest of the five emirates have died due to heart attacks in the first half of 2019, according to the report.
Heart attack onset at a younger age
The 2019 report has also found that the victims of heart attack are getting younger year by year. Out of the 131 cases reported in Abu Dhabi this year, 57 of them were between the age group of 20-40. Besides, higher and earlier incidence of heart diseases in Asian population; work-related and emotional stress, lifestyle changes and unhealthy food habits also contribute significantly in the expats in the UAE, said Dr Mittal.
Bad lifestyle choices
Dr Mittal said: “While the threshold for cardiac arrest and CVD, worldwide, is 65 years, in the UAE, it is 45 years. The UAE has all the risk factors for CVD. Around 20 per cent Emiratis have diabetes, 80 per cent are overweight and 30 per cent are obese. One in three Emiratis have hypertension, leading to strokes, CVD and kidney disease. 60 per cent of the people in UAE who have CVD are regular smokers. All these conditions are causes for the high rate of heart attacks and CVD among locals in the UAE.”
How to prevent CVD?
While genetic and lifestyle choices contribute to early onset of heart diseases, it is totally possible to prevent it with greater community education, awareness and early intervention where high-risk factors can be addressed and modified, pointed out Dr Mittal.
This would include reduction of weight, healthy food choices, avoiding high sugar and high-fat diet, giving up smoking habit, regular exercise and regular health screening
Need for international collaboration
The conference was inaugurated by Dr Aman Puri, the Indian Consul General. Addressing the delegates, Dr Puri pointed out that the previous one year had proved the need for international medical collaboration in sharing health outcomes that could benefit people across the globe. He said there was need to be keep abreast of rapid medical advancement and use it for the benefit of the people cutting across territorial, cultural and national boundaries.
Pioneering Indian heart specialist Dr Naresh Trehan, founder of the Medanta Mediciity, Delhi was the guest of honour. Addressing the delegate, Dr Trehan said the modern advancements in interventional cardiology and other diagnostics had made it possible to not only avoid serious heart complications in case of a Myocardial Infarction (MI), but also prevent any further deterioration.
Causes of CVD and heart attacks:
* Obesity: Having a higher Basal metabolic rate of 27 and above indicates impaired metabolism that strains the heart.
* Hypertension, high lipedemia: High blood pressure and high levels of bad cholesterol. While high blood pressure weakens the arteries, cholesterol causes plaque build-up that can cause a heart attack as it obstructs flow of blood.
* Consumption of high-fat and high sugar food: A diet that is not rich in fresh and green fruit and vegetables and has too much high fat, processed food with sugar and chemical additives can trigger obesity and heart disease
* Smoking: Smoking cigarettes cause arteriosclerosis or plaque build, narrowing the blood floor in arteries and triggering clots, stroke, and heat attacks.
* Genetics: It has been observed that individuals who have a family history of CVD tend to have a higher chance of its incidence.
Tips to a heart healthy:
• Include daily aerobic exercise of moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes (e.g. brisk walking, cycling, swimming, etc.).
• Studies have proved that the South Asian expatriate population is genetically predisposed to coronary artery block. Therefore, they need to adopt healthy lifestyles and be regular in their heart check-ups.
• Healthy eating habits are a must. Completely eliminate unhealthy fats, processed foods, and high sugar foods from your diet. The American Heart Association guidelines call for healthy diets rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates and lean proteins while avoiding salt, sugar, and animal-based fats. Lastly, smoking cessation is of paramount importance.
• Have a regular routine of 45 minutes of rigorous physical activity every day. Besides that, always take the stairs and avoid elevators, try to be active throughout.
• One of the major factors of heart disease is stress. High levels of stress produce cortisol hormone in our bodies. Studies have shown that high levels of stress increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar and blood pressure all of which have a very negative impact on heart health.