Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. In a recent survey conducted by the medical facility among UAE residents, a third of the respondents said they had never undertaken a heart health check. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: More than half of all UAE residents responding to a recent survey said they had not had their heart health checked for more than two years, despite cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of death in the country.

In fact, a third of the respondents in the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi study — more than one thousand — said they had never undertaken a heart health check.

“Even among residents over the age of 45, the highest risk group surveyed, 49 per cent had not had a heart health checkup for more than two years, with 22 per cent never having had one at all. Women were much less likely to have seen a doctor about their heart health, with 35 per cent never having done so and 26 per cent not having had a checkup for more than two years,” the hospital said in a statement.

Cardiovascular disease symptoms in UAE patients often occur a decade earlier than their counterparts in other developed nations.

Direct impact

The study also found that 55 per cent of respondents have already been affected by heart disease during their lifetimes, with 12 per cent having been themselves diagnosed with one and 53 per cent having a close friend or family member diagnosed with heart disease, or both.

“These results make clear the tragic impact that heart disease has on our community. Each and every heart disease diagnosis ripples out from the patient to their family and friends, naturally causing a great deal of anguish for all concerned. It doesn’t have to be this way. Most heart disease cases can be prevented and that is really the driving force behind our campaign for healthier hearts, together,” said Dr Ronney Shantouf, cardiologist at the Abu Dhabi-based hospital that is part of Mubadala Health’s network.

Strong awareness

The survey, however, showed that there was a strong awareness among the community about the risk factors for heart diseases, with 78 per cent of the respondents saying that they understood the risk factors and 77 per cent reporting that they knew that heart disease was preventable. In addition, more than half of those surveyed were aware that physicians recommend more than 150 minutes of exercise a week to help prevent heart disease.

Greater vigilance

Dr Shantouf recommended greater heart health vigilance among residents.

“It is very concerning that despite the tremendous strain that heart disease places on our community and the high level of awareness we see, people are still reluctant to visit the doctor and take steps to prevent heart disease. It is vitally important that people visit a doctor, particularly if they are at a higher risk. A proper cardiac evaluation along with some simple, heart-healthy lifestyle changes can not only prevent a great deal of pain and anguish for yourselves, but your friends and family as well,” Dr Shantouf said.

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Prevalence of risks

Among those surveyed, only 15 per cent reported that they did not have any risk factors for heart disease.

The most common risk factors reported by those surveyed were high blood pressure, which was a concern among 46 per cent of respondents, stress afflicting 45 per cent of respondents, cholesterol noted among 44 per cent of respondents, and a lack of exercise among 44 per cent of respondents. In addition, obesity and diabetes, conditions closely linked to severe heart disease, were reported to affect 35 per cent and 30 per cent of those surveyed, respectively.