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There are two critical truths that must be understood regarding the prevalence of Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) in the UAE: One is that the country’s threshold of onset of heart diseases is as low as the age of 45, when the international threshold is at 65 years; and the second is that 80 per cent of deaths due to CVDs can be prevented through early detection and treatment. Together, the two realities comprise the underlay of the UAE’s sustained efforts to tackle this problem. If risk factors are the pointers to CVD statistics, the UAE has all the associated risk factors: From diabetes to obesity, hypertension to cholesterol — all causative factors for heart disease post high numbers among the country’s population. For example, 80 per cent of Emiratis are overweight and 30 per cent obese. Sixty per cent of the people in the UAE who have CVD are regular smokers and heart disease is the top killer in the UAE, causing about 30 per cent of all deaths in the country.

The irony of the 80 per cent preventability axiom is thus deepened by the ground reality rates of deaths, many of which could potentially have been prevented. And this lies at the heart of the issue: What will make the difference? Despite the demographic mix of people in the UAE and the race and gene-inherited health markers that differ from one set of cultures to the other, the great commonality about CVD prevention has to do, nearly entirely, with following a healthy lifestyle. As reassuring as this reality is, it is offset by another little reassuring truth: 37 per cent of people in the UAE do not exercise.

It is clear then where the onus lies.

The UAE government has undertaken a range of initiatives over the years to raise awareness on CVDs and how they can be prevented. From national drives on the importance of early screening — every individual after the age of 25 must get one done — to physical fitness campaigns and facilities, right down to health promotions in schools, every strata of society has been addressed and educated by UAE’s health authorities.

Ultimately, CVD rates are about the numbers of people who end up with heart disease either as a primary condition or a secondary outcome of other lifestyle-related conditions such as diabetes, hypertension or obesity. And what can bring down the numbers are people themselves. Every individual who makes the effort to adopt a healthy lifestyle as a preventive measure can make a difference.

Becoming the change can be as simple as that.