Heart attack, cardiac arrest
Doctors say fretting about illness can worsen heart symptoms. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Physicians at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi are highlighting the importance of swiftly seeking care if patients are worried about their heart health, warning that health-related stress can worsen symptoms and even damage the heart.

Since opening the hospital, doctors have noticed a concerning trend among patients, many of whom wait until their symptoms become severe before seeking medical advice. This delay in seeking treatment can mean that these patients require more complex care than may have been needed earlier in their diseases.

Know Your Heart campaign

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has launched a month-long heart health awareness campaign, ‘Know Your Heart’, to educate people about the best ways to reduce their risks of heart disease.

Doctors are also concerned about the effect the stress caused by worrying about their health can have on their body. Even daily levels of stress are linked to heart disease. Worries or episodes of ill health can themselves be significant sources of stress. Studies have shown that stress can make existing health problems worse and is associated with an increase in the occurrence of heart disease. Bouts of acute severe stress, such as when a person receives traumatic news, has been known to lead to a sudden heart attack, often referred to as ‘broken heart’ syndrome.

“Health problems are one of the most stressful situations a person can face. Not knowing if there is something wrong, or what the problem is, can cause tremendous anxiety which can worsen a person’s symptoms. It’s vital that instead of worrying, people visit a doctor as soon as they suspect they might be ill. Getting symptoms checked immediately, and if needed starting treatment as soon as possible, is the best way to ensure the best possible outcome,” says Dr. Emin Murat Tuzcu, Chair of the Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

Dr Emin Murat Tuzcu

The physical effects of stress on the body include an increase in heart rate, breathing, and alterations in the function of many organs, including in the management of blood sugar levels. Left unmanaged, stress can cause damage to the arteries, lead to heart rhythm problems and worsen high blood pressure. In addition, stress can cause people to turn to harmful habits such as smoking and overeating when stressed.

Negative effect of stress

“Stress can absolutely have a negative effect on a person’s health. Dealing with the unknown and uncertainty are important sources of stress. In my conversations with patients, I try to provide clarity about their health status which is brings great relief to patients’ minds. The longer people ignore symptoms, the more stress they put on themselves, potentially worsening their conditions. Delaying visiting the doctor and hoping problems will disappear is the worst thing one can do,” continues Dr. Tuzcu.

To reduce the toll that stress can have on a person, physicians at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi have urged people who think they may be experiencing symptoms to seek specialist care as soon as possible. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has introduced a range of measures designed to make it easier and more convenient for patients to access care at the hospital as soon as they need it.

The hospital will conduct a series of community outreach and education events throughout the month of September designed to encourage Abu Dhabi residents to make healthier lifestyle choices. It will also launch a range of digital tools that will support people looking to manage their heart health.