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New survey reveals widespread concern about heart disease in the UAE

Around 44% of the population fear dying of heart disease and 76% believe the under-40s not concerned enough

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A new survey of social attitudes towards heart disease by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has revealed widespread concern about the illness across the United Arab Emirates, with leading regional heart doctors calling for greater education on the topic.

The survey, which was commissioned by the hospital in Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala’s network of health care providers, sought responses from more than 1,000 residents last month to a series of questions about heart disease and its root causes.

In total, some 44 per cent of people said they feared dying of heart disease, with women more likely to register this as a concern than men. The survey, conducted leading up to World Heart Day on September 29, revealed a broad consensus among residents about the risks of heart disease, with 76 per cent of survey respondents saying that they believed people under 40 years should be more concerned about the illness.

Despite broad awareness of heart disease among the population, there was less understanding of the factors that influence a person’s heart health, particularly among younger people, the survey found.

Those between the ages of 18 and 29 years were significantly less likely to be aware of the role family history can play in a person’s risk of developing heart disease. More than half of young respondents — 51 per cent — said family history was not a factor in heart health, compared to the 62 per cent of total respondents who said it was. Experts, on the other hand, agree that people with a family history are significantly more likely to develop some form of heart disease over their lifetimes.

Most respondents — across all age groups, nationalities, income groups and emirates of residence — indicated they felt they could control the health of their heart, with 79 per cent responding in the affirmative. Strikingly, the level of confidence increased as respondents in the survey group got older, with 85 per cent of people over 40 saying they could control their heart health, compared to 74 per cent of people under 29.

Regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet can significantly reduce a person’s risk of developing heart disease over their lifetime.

The survey results suggested a disparity between Emirati nationals and other nationalities in the level of awareness of the factors that can improve heart health, with 71 per cent of Emirati nationals believing they could improve their heart health, compared with 83 per cent of Asian respondents and 92 per cent of westerners.

A parallel study, surveying social attitudes to heart health in Kuwait, showed similar findings, with 39 per cent of survey respondents in Kuwait feared dying due to heart disease, and 71 per cent believing that people under 40 should be more concerned about the illness.

“The results of this survey show that heart disease is a real and present concern across the whole community in the UAE and the region, and that more people are looking for support in managing their heart health,” said Dr Rakesh M. Suri, chief of staff and chief of thoracic & cardiovascular surgery at the clinic.

“It demonstrates that the campaign against heart disease needs to be multidimensional — improving health education and also ensuring that everyone has access to the advanced technologies and sophisticated therapies that can treat heart issues as they occur,” said Dr Suri.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has played a pioneering role in introducing new cardiovascular treatments to the UAE, such as catheter-based valve interventions, hybrid coronary revascularisation, minimally invasive and robotic cardiac surgery.

The survey was conducted between August 21-28, 2017, by YouGov, with a pool of respondents from across the UAE and Kuwait.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is marking World Heart Day with a monthlong campaign, “Love Your Heart”, which includes community health activities, online heart health education resources and a range of initiatives designed to raise awareness about the advanced cardiovascular services available at the hospital.

One of the highlights will be a special ‘Cycle for Health’ event at Zayed Sports City on September 30, presented by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and Health Authority — Abu Dhabi in partnership with Healthpoint and Imperial College London Diabetes Centre.