UAE: Heart diseases on the rise among youth, say doctors

Posted on 28-09-2022

Expert underlines that almost 35 to 40 per cent of deaths in the UAE are from heart attacks or strokes

Cases of cardiovascular diseases have been on the rise among the UAE's youth, and many of these lead to heart attacks and stroke, medical experts have said.

According to the World Health Organisation, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality globally, accounting for 17.9 million deaths annually.

Doctors from the UAE’s private hospitals noted a trend where majority of the cases fall among the age group of 30 to 50 years.

Dr Bilal Kabeer Khan, cardiology specialist at Ahalia Hospital, Mussafah, said that over the past few decades, there has been a dramatic change in people's lifestyles, thus leading to an increase in cases of heart diseases.

“The impact on the activity, diet and lifestyle of its populations has led to greater incidence of diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. This has led to higher incidence of heart disease.”

In the past years, the UAE Health Future Study and UAE National Health Survey showed that the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors in the young population — aged 18 to 40 years — is quite high.

The risk factors for heart disease are grouped into two major categories. The first category is non-modifiable risk factors like age, gender and a family history of heart disease.

The second category of risk factors covers modifiable risk factors — diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking, lack of exercise and excessive stress.

“The risk factors for heart disease are interconnected and each additional risk factor increases the risk of heart disease exponentially. These risk factors, if left uncontrolled, eventually lead to heart disease,” Dr Khan pointed out.

Dr Jairam K. Aithal, consultant interventional cardiology and programme director, NMC Healthcare, underlined that almost 35 to 40 per cent of deaths in the UAE are from heart attacks or strokes.

“In the UAE, heart attacks affected us almost a decade before most other countries. Changing lifestyles, smoking, and increased incidence of obesity and diabetes in the younger population lead to more immature heart attacks,” Dr Aithal said on the occasion of World Heart Day, which falls on September 29.

Impact of Covid-19 pandemic

Dr Khan noted that globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected cardiovascular health adversely.

“Covid-19 infection leads to abnormal heart rhythm and increased clot formation in the body. These clots resulted in heart attacks and stroke in the absence of any usual risk factors for cardiovascular disease. During the pandemic, patients were reluctant to visit hospitals. Due to this, globally a trend was seen where the in-hospital deaths from cardiovascular diseases declined but overall deaths from heart disease actually increased. This was not just because of Covid-19 related clot formation, but as the patients failed to follow up with physicians, their risk factor control was suboptimal.”

According to the UAE Statistical Annual Report by the Ministry of Health and Prevention, the number of deaths from heart disease in 2019 was 72 per 100,000 population, and in 2020, it jumped to 84 per 100,000, reflecting the effect of Covid-19 on cardiovascular deaths in the UAE.

5-step strategy to protect the heart

Doctors noted that in the future, the burden of cardiovascular disease is “going to increase further unless awareness regarding prevention strategies is increased”.

Dr Khan advised a simple five-step strategy for a healthier lifestyle and to prevent heart disease.

Step 1: Stop smoking.

Step 2: Eat healthy. Limit consumption of fats, sugars.

Step 3: Increase physical activity and exercise. Target around 150-300 minutes a week

Step 4: Reduce stress, get adequate sleep.

Step 5: Know your numbers. Visit your physician regularly and keep track of your blood pressures, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.