Dubai: Type 2 diabetic patients, who are susceptible to cardiovascular complications, should take extra precautionary measures to reduce their risk, said specialists on Thursday.

They urged urgent action because cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality for people with diabetes.

During the opening of the inaugural three-day International Cardiology Symposium and Diabetes Forum — A Global Agenda in Dubai yesterday, more than 50 health experts addressed global cardiology issues and complications from diabetes.

Held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, UAE Minister of Finance, and Chairman of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), the event is considered relevant given the incidence of diabetes in the UAE.

Available statistics from the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) peg the percentage of diabetic UAE residents — Emiratis and expatriates, at more than 20 per cent with another 18 at high risk.

Heart disease and stroke are two main causes of death and disability in Type 2 patients, according to global bodies International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The bodies estimate that Type 2 diabetics are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than people without diabetes, even in patients over the age of 65.

Further the American Heart Association states that even when glucose levels are under control diabetes greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

In light of such evidence-based data, there is a pressing need to control the risks of cardiovascular disease (CVD), said international expert Dr Jorge Ilha Guimarães, former president of the Brazilian Society of Cardiology, and conference chair.

Speaking to Gulf News, he explained that the risk of cardiovascular disease is higher in diabetics because of the presence of other risk factors for cardiovascular disease including hypertension [high blood pressure], cholesterol, and obesity. Smoking also puts the patient at a higher risk.

“Diabetic patients — both men and women — are at a higher risk of heart attack before the age of 50. The risks need to be controlled to avoid or delay the development of development of heart and blood vessel disease, especially in a region where incidence of diabetes and diabetes-related complications are increasing,” he said.

Dr Wael Abdul Rahman Al Mahmee, cardiologist at Shaikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), Abu Dhabi and conference chair told Gulf News that controlling the risk factors can reduce the risk factors. “A person with diabetes has to control his blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol as well as make attempts to lose weight and maintain a healthy diet. Diabetic smokers should quit because smoking is known to double the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

He advised patients routinely check blood glucose and blood pressure. “Consult a dietician to identify high glycemic index foods that can make blood sugar levels go up.”

Dr Alawi Al Sheikh Ali, consultant cardiologist at SKMC and President of the Emirates Cardiac Society, added, “Diabetic patients should have a holistic approach to control the CVD risk factors which requires a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.”