Ask any healthcare professional and they will tell you that cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally. In the UAE, the situation is no different, with studies determining that more than half of UAE residents have been affected by heart disease during their lifetime.
In addition, it was also found that incidences of premature coronary heart diseases (CHDs) in the UAE are about 10-15 years earlier than the people in Western countries. Despite these numbers, young residents in the UAE remain woefully ignorant about how they are at risk of developing heart disease, as well as the symptoms most commonly associated with the condition.
This lack of awareness has led to an alarming rise in severe premature cardiovascular events like heart attack. However, there is still hope on the horizon when you consider that around 80 per cent of all cases of cardiovascular disease are preventable.
Be aware of family medical history
The very first thing that everyone should take into account is whether any of your immediate family members, such as a parent or sibling, has had a heart attack, a stroke, or was diagnosed with heart disease before the age of 60. This is a strong indication of a family history of premature heart disease and means that your chances of developing the same condition may be higher than normal.
In such an instance, be sure to inform your doctor that you have a family history of heart disease. A heart health check is recommended from the age of 45 onwards, but your doctor may want to assess your risk of developing heart disease earlier if you have a family history of heart disease.
While you may not be able to change your family history or genetics, there are ways and lifestyle changes that you can make to lower your risk. Firstly, be up to date about your health numbers – cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure – a simple health check will tell you if they are at normal level.
Secondly, the way to a healthy heart is through a balanced diet. Be sure to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish and pulses, with restricted amounts of salt and sugar.
Lastly, avoid smoking and maintain regular physical activity. Sadly, more than half of residents across the UAE remain unaware that physicians recommend more than 150 minutes of exercise a week to help prevent heart disease. If it is not possible for you to go to a gym, then a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day or more on most days of the week is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health.
Learn more about heart health
Even if there is no history of heart disease among your family, it is always a good idea to learn more about CVDs. Between 2000-2019, average global life expectancy rose by more than six years – from 66.8 years in 2000 to 73.4 years in 2019. However, heart disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide, and there is still a gap between overall life expectancy and healthy life expectancy.
To address this issue, we have partnered with several organisations including Novartis and Emirates Cardiac Society. Together, our aim is to raise awareness among residents across the UAE about the importance of being more informed about their heart health, and not to delay seeking treatment if they start experiencing any of the early symptoms of heart ailments.
Most recently, the ‘Your Heart Can’t Wait’ initiative highlighted the symptoms of heart failure, and how delaying a diagnosis can put a patient at risk of recurrent hospitalisations that can prove fatal.
The good news is that more people are focused on aging well by maintaining their physical and mental health, and the pharma and healthcare sectors are rapidly evolving with innovations in technology, increasing healthcare spending, and improving healthcare facilities and systems. Many hospitals, ambulatory surgical care centres, and clinics are adopting advanced devices and equipment specifically to treat people diagnosed with CVDs.
In addition, a rising focus on drug development, increasing demand for precision medicine, the high adoption of home care settings, and increasing investments in R&D will go a long way in maintaining the health of our societies.