190831 heart attack
It is also important to note that heart attacks, once considered to be an affliction of the elderly, are occurring in more and more people in their 20s and 30s. Image Credit: Gulf News archves

Abu Dhabi: Heart attacks can happen to anyone, whether you are just in your 30s, a dedicated gym buff, or undergoing treatment for cancer. That’s the message this World Heart Day from three UAE residents who have recently overhauled their lifestyles following a cardiac incident, and who are now urging others to keep a check on their heart health.

World Heart Day is celebrated around the world on September 29 as a means to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease (CVD), the world’s top killer. In fact, CVD claims more than 18.6 million every year, and like the rest of the world, it is also the UAE’s top killer.

Risk factors

The major risk factors for cardiovascular disease are generally well known: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, family history diabetes, smoking, and age. But heart attacks can also creep up on nearly anyone, which is why monitoring heart health with the guidance of a doctor is so essential after 20 years of age.

It is also important to note that heart attacks, once considered to be an affliction of the elderly, are occurring in more and more people in their 20s and 30s.

An episode while driving

Take Noor Shah Ajab, a 34-year-old driver from Pakistan, who had never suspected he could suffer a heart attack.

“I have never been overweight, and I believed I was generally healthy despite my diabetes. But one day last month, I developed a sudden pain that I could not ignore as I was driving,” Ajab told Gulf News.

Noor Shah Ajab

He was rushed to LLH Hospital in Musaffah, where he underwent an emergency interventional procedure to release the block in his vessels. He was discharged after five days, and went back to work soon after.

The father-of-seven is now resolved not to put his cardiac health at risk again.

“I do not smoke, and I have always felt healthy. But my doctor told me I have to eat right. So I have completely dropped eating red meat and clarified butter, as well as sugar and excess salt. I also follow my doctor’s advice to the tee, and am continuing to follow up with him regularly. On World Heart Day, I would advise others to make sure they check with a doctor and follow any advice they receive from the doctor,” Ajab said.

After a workout

A 35-year-old Indian gym trainer in Dubai, who does not wish to disclose his name, also suffered a heart attack at his residence this March. He was just back at his home after his daily workout when it happened.

According to him, he had been working out since the age of 20, and chose the career of training others at 23. Maintaining a good physique, he had no history of diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol, and no one in his immediate family members had suffered a heart attack either.

“I could not understand. I was just back at home from the gym and was relaxing on my couch. Suddenly, I felt a pain in my chest, and told my friends that I was feeling uneasy. They rushed me to Aster Hospital, Mankhool. On detailed evaluation, I was found to have suffered a heart attack,” he said.

The gym trainer was stabilised, and later underwent an emergency interventional procedure to correct the block in the artery. He got discharged from the hospital on the third day and he is now doing well.

“I am physically active now. There are no restrictions on doing gym. But the doctors have warned me of exerting pressure on my body. Earlier, I used to hit the gym for about four to six hours, doing heavy weightlifting. Maybe it had gone wrong for me. Now, I am careful and hit the gym everyday but in a controlled manner,” he said.

While recovering from cancer

For Rowena Boque, her brush with cardiac illness came at a fraught time, but the 42-year-old Filipina said it also worked out to her advantage.

Rowena Boque

“I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in December 2020, and had just undergone a laparoscopic surgery to remove the cancer at Tawam Hospital. The day after my surgery, I developed a chest pain that would not go away. The doctors immediately intervened, and I was told I had suffered a minor heart attack before the surgery,” the waitress said.

So within three days of a surgery to remove cancerous growths from her colon, Boque underwent an interventional procedure under Dr Anwar Al Zaabi, cardiology consultant at Tawam Hospital. The doctor placed a stent in her main coronary artery. Recovering quickly, Boque then went back to work in a month. But the incident left the mother-of two with lifelong learnings.

“I had always been on my feet at work, and make sure to fit in at least 30 minutes of walking every day into my schedule. But the doctor urged me to cut out red meat from my diet, and I have done this, even though it has not felt easy. I also prioritise my sleep now, and make sure to get at least eight hours of sleep every night, compared to the five hours I would get earlier,” she said.