Zulekha Hospital recently conducted a free health camp at Gulf News which saw hundreds of employees receiving almost instant reports on their health situation. Image Credit: Atiq-ur-Rahman/Gulf News

DUBAI:Young people are suffering heart attacks at an “alarming and unusual” pace that could develop into a national health problem, a leading specialist has warned.

Dr Fekry El Deeb, consultant interventional cardiologist at Zulekha Hospitals, said a growing number of emergency cases brought in with heart attacks are in their 20s and 30s.

Cardiovascular disease is normally associated with older people in their 60s and 70s, he added.

“There’s no month where we don’t have a case or two or three people aged 25-35 suffering a heart attack. This is a very alarming and unusual phenomenon that’s getting bigger,” Dr El Deeb said on the sidelines of Zulekha’s health camp at the Gulf News head office in Dubai on Thursday.

“We don’t have exact numbers on this for the UAE, but in our experience and that of others we talk to, this seems to be happening more.”

He added that youngsters have “no awareness of the risk factors” like smoking, junk food and lack of exercise.

“Young people think nothing bad can happen to them – it does and the numbers are rising. It’s very serious, we’re expecting this to increase in the coming five to 10 years,” he said.

“Lots of patients are coming in with chest pain related to heart disease – and these are the lucky ones. The unlucky ones come in with a heart attack and then you only have one hour or less to abort it.”

Forty per cent of UAE residents aged 15-25 are overweight or obese, he said, adding “just go to any mall and see how many people are overweight. It’s a big issue here.”

Obesity is a leading risk factor in heart disease, added Nafeesa Ahmad, director of nutrition and lifestyle management at Zulekha.

“It’s about the ‘convenient food’ culture. It’s quick, cheap – and full of harmful additives and preservatives to give it a long shelf life. Food is perishable, it’s not meant to be ‘fresh’ that long,” Nafeesa said.

“And young people are especially attracted to junk food; a lot of the ads are targeting them. There’s a knowledge deficiency about food, people are too busy to eat right.

“It’s a lifestyle issue, and that’s why we call it a lifestyle disease. People think ‘it’s ok because we’re young’. We need to raise awareness and that’s also why we’re here (at Gulf News) today.”

The free health camp saw hundreds of Gulf News staffers receive almost instant reports on their blood-sugar, cholesterol and BMI (Body Mass Index) levels.

Zulekha conducts similar tests on their own team to monitor their health as well, said the hospital’s operations director, Dr Kishan Pakkal.

“People don’t go for preventive tests.

“Even in hospital staff you will find high sugar or cholesterol. You won’t know if you don’t check. It’s important to raise awareness and that’s part of what we’re doing here today,” Dr Pakkal said.