Abu Dhabi: Nearly half of all patients admitted for a major heart attack at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD) in the last three years were under the age of 50 years, the hospital revealed recently.
In fact, one in 10 of these admitted patients was aged under 40. The hospital said in a statement this shows that young people lack an understanding about what a high-risk scenario to develop heart disease looks like.
Ahead of World Heart Day on September 29, the hospital has launched a heart health campaign to educate people about the escalating problem of cardiovascular disease in the UAE, including risk factors and warning signs that should not be ignored.
Cardiovascular disease is known to contribute to 40 per cent of all deaths in the UAE, and its high incidence stems from the prevalence of risk factors like abdominal obesity, diabetes, smoking, hypertension, and high cholesterol. These risk factors have also become more common among young adults in the country, including young women. In Abu Dhabi, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death.
In recent years, the medical community has directed increasing attention on the phenomenon of young patients suffering from major cardiovascular episodes. In fact, these episodes have also become more frequent among younger women as well.
Unaware of risks
CCAD’s campaign aims to empower residents to take control of their health through regular and early testing, and subsequent lifestyle changes.
Explaining some of the reasons for the alarming rise in cardiovascular disease among younger adults, Dr Feras Bader, staff physician at the CCAD Heart and Vascular Institute, said many patients are unaware of their risk factors because they refrain from visiting a doctor for a heart disease risk assessment until they experience major symptoms or a heart attack. More than 95 per cent of patients with a major heart attack seen at the hospital in the last three years had at least one risk factor.
This echoes findings announced by the hospital in June, which showed that 59 per cent of women who had participated in a heart health survey had not even discussed their heart health with their doctor in the past year.
“It is disheartening to see so many young patients come in with such aggressive cardiac disease. The extent of damage to the arteries in patients as young as 30 and 40 years of age, now, is something that we would previously only see in patients over the age of 70. This tells us that people do not know the important health numbers, including their cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, and are also unaware about how these risk factors put a strain on their hearts. They also believe that this is an old age disease,” Dr Bader said.
“There are also several other misconceptions when it comes to heart health. Patients sometimes assume that if they feel fit or have a normal body mass index that they are immune to heart disease. But you can be thin and have high cholesterol because you may smoke – a big issue among youngsters here – or carry more abdominal fat because of a diet full of processed foods, all of which impact the heart. Similarly, people often underestimate the role that family history plays in increasing their risk of heart disease,” he added.
Dr Dima Quraini, staff physician at the hospital’s Heart and Vascular Institute, had also earlier said that she had come across many women who had never had their heart health assessed, and had therefore been offered less aggressive treatment options in the early stages. Addressing women, she had also warned that heart attacks are more fatal for them than their male counterparts.
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Make better choices
The only way to turn the tide of this disease is by showing young people the benefits of making smart choices now for a long, healthy life.
“From regular wellness exams starting from the age of 20, or earlier if they have a family history of heart disease, and promoting physical activity and a healthy eating plan to following their prescribed treatment plan, patients can prevent and even reverse the progression of heart disease,” Dr Bader advised.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is an official chest pain centre for Abu Dhabi emirate, and it therefore specialises in offering treatment to patients who report to it with chest pain.