Dubai: People in the UAE die of heart attacks almost 20 years earlier than the rest of the world, experts revealed.

“The threshold for cardiac arrests and cardiovascular disease (CVD) worldwide is 65 years, while people in the UAE are suffering from the CVD at the age of 45,” said Dr Abdullah Shehab, chairman of the Emirates Cardiac Society.

He spoke to Gulf News on the sidelines of the World Cardiac Congress which opened in Dubai on Wednesday. The four day-congress was inaugurated by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council.

Focusing on CVD, which is the leading cause of deaths in the UAE, Dr Shehab said: “The UAE has all the risk factors for CVD. According to recent studies conducted by Abu Dhabi Health Services (Seha), about 200,000 Emiratis have diabetes. Obesity is also on the rise, with 80 per cent of Emiratis being overweight and 30 per cent obese. One in three Emiratis have hypertension, that leads to strokes, CVD and kidney disease. All these conditions are causes of the high rate of heart attacks and CVD in the UAE.”

60%

of the people in UAE who have CVD are regular smokers

Dr Fahd Baslaib, interventional cardiologist and CEO of Rashid Hospital said: “High cholesterol is one of the main reasons for CVDs and we know that plaque build-up in arteries is triggered by smoking. Right now, 60 per cent of the people in UAE who have CVD are regular smokers. What is important is that 80 per cent of deaths that occur due to CVD are entirely preventable with early detection and treatment.”

During the four-day congress, 600 speakers will present over 200 scientific papers on various aspects of CVD. “It is a matter of honour that Dubai is hosting the congress for the second time in six years, as no other country has won this bid twice. This is a testament to the work we are doing on CVD here in the UAE,” added Dr Baslaib.

Enabling heart health

Humaid Al Qutami, chairman of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), welcomed the 4,000 delegates from 90 countries attending the conference. He said: “Globally, heart disease is the leading cause of death and it’s of critical importance that the discussions and scientific papers presented here from experts will help provide a clearer solution to the challenges and solutions in cardiology. The DHA has established an International Cardiology and Research Centre that aims to become the preferred destination for those looking for quality cardiology treatment.”

600

speakers will present over 200 papers on various aspects of CVD at the congress

Dr Baslaib listed the steps the UAE health care authorities were taking to address CVD’s high incidence. “The GCC heart registry has all important data on CVD in the UAE which helps us get a clear picture of the challenge we face. We have begun screening people at a younger age — 35 — for CVD, to be able to catch the condition early and intervene. The government has levied taxes on carbonated and energy drinks, and cigarettes to discourage these habits. Catching obesity in the early stages is important and the health authorities have introduced health plans in schools, serving healthy and nutritiously balanced food in schools as well as running fitness programmes. These and many other initiatives will help us educate the community, create greater awareness about heart conditions and tackle the issue before it turns into a full blown disease,” added Dr Baslaib.

Professor David A Wood, president of the World Heart Foundation, in his keynote address stressed on the importance of formulating a call to action, to global politicians and policymakers. “The probability of dying after a heart attack is four or five times higher in many middle and low income countries, compared to higher income countries. Our priorities at the World Heart Federation is secondary prevention of those suffering from CVD, primary prevention for those at high risk of developing CVD because of hypertension, diabetes, and primordial prevention in the population specifically focused on tobacco.”