When did you last have a health screening? To mark World Heart Day 2019, cardiologists from DHA are conducting public health awareness campaigns with a hope that community members will find time in their hectic schedules and pause to think about their health.
According to World Heart Federation, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading global cause of death in both men and women, and the UAE is no different. Globally, CVD takes the lives of 17.9 million people a year, which is 31 per cent of all global deaths. By 2030, this number will increase to 30 million, if urgent action is not taken.
“Every year, we carry out free screening programmes to mark World Heart Day and year after year we find a significant number of people have never done a single health screening before,” said Dr Fahd Baslaib, Interventional Cardiologist and CEO of Rashid Hospital. “Many of them realise they have some issue such as cholesterol or high blood sugar during our free screening campaigns. Cholesterol build-up can begin slowly in early teenage years itself so by the time we detect high cholesterol in adults they may have had it for 20 years. At that point, we cannot reverse the damage done.
“We have seen cases where the patient has been admitted with major blockages and was completely unaware of his situation because no prior screening was ever done. Therefore, our message to the community is twofold; people must get yearly health screenings done to assess their health, to find out their risk profile for developing CVD and therefore take preventive or therapeutic steps. This must be done at least yearly or earlier if the doctor recommends. Yearly screenings help people know their health status and stay on track.
“Secondly, those who have existing health conditions need to adhere to proper follow-up and compliance.”
He said the challenges he finds that are peculiar to this region are poor compliance and follow-up. He added that studies have shown the average age for patients with heart attacks is at least ten years younger in the Middle East than in many western countries. “This can be attributed to the high percentage of risk factors facing the population. We have a high percentage of people with diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.”
Dr Haitham Al Hashimi, Head of Cardiology at Rashid Hospital, said, “Almost 30 per cent of our patients are diabetics. So those with diabetes or other chronic conditions must ensure compliance and regular follow-up. He added that a majority of the young patients admitted due to heart attacks are smokers. “This is a strong correlation between tobacco consumption and heart disease. We have young patients in their twenties with heart attacks and in this profile of patients more often than not, tobacco is the cause. Lifestyle modification is really the need of the hour. This includes exercise, a healthy diet, sleep and regular follow-ups. This goes hand-in-hand. You cannot do one aspect and neglect the other. The good news with cardiovascular health is that modifiable risk factors including hypertension (high blood pressure), tobacco use, raised blood glucose (diabetes), physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, cholesterol/lipids, overweight and obesity can be controlled with lifestyle changes and if implemented, the risk to developing heart diseases reduces significantly.
“When it comes to CVD, exercise is both a primary and secondary form of prevention; this means that exercise is just as important for healthy individuals as it is for those who have had a heart attack. Exercise helps control and manage lifestyle diseases including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure — factors that can lead to heart diseases.
“People with a medical history of illnesses should consult their physician and select forms of exercise that is suited for their health and medical condition.”