Heart disease occurs in much younger population in UAE

Heart disease occurs in much younger population in UAE

Abu Dhabi doctor recalls case of a 17-year-old patient who suffered heart attack as a result of smoking and family history.


Asma Ali Zain

Published: Sun 20 Mar 2016, 4:26 PM

A heart attack at the age of only 17 was not only a shocking experience for the patient and his family but also for a doctor in Abu Dhabi when he saw the young man being rushed into the emergency unit clutching his chest.

Myth vs Truth
> Myth: Cardiovascular disease afflicts only older people.
> Truth: Plaque can start accumulating in the arteries leading to clogged arteries right from childhood due to unhealthy eating habits such as eating junk and sugar laden foods.
> Myth: A lot of people believe that having their diabetes under control will help keep heart disease at bay.
> Truth: Treating diabetes can reduce the risk of CVD developing, not keep it at bay.
> Myth: People think they do not need to check cholesterol levels until they cross 30 or 35 years of age.
> Truth: It is prudent to start checking it in one's 20s, especially if there is a family history of the same.
> Myth: People relate heart attacks generally with chest pain.
> Truth: While it is common to have chest pain or discomfort, symptoms of a heart attack can also cause shortness of breath, nausea, feeling lightheaded and pain in the jaw, neck or back.
> Myth: It's a man's disease.
> Truth: According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of women causing one in three deaths each year.
> Myth: Often people believe that people suffering from heart disease should take it easy and not exercise.
> Truth: Research supports the fact that moderate levels of exercise boost cardiovascular health'
An ECG and a few minutes later, it was clear that the young Indian boy was had a heart attack. "This is one incident that I will never forget," says Dr Joseph Pulavelil Kurian, Specialist Cardiovascular Disease at LLH Hospital in Abu Dhabi.
"The boy was in 12th standard and we found that he smoked and also there was a family history of heart disease," says the doctor recalling an incident that has stuck in his memory. "He was very young to have a heart attack."
Timely treatment saved the boy's life who has relocated since the incident happened five years ago.
A shocking but a bitter fact is that heart disease occurs in a much younger population in the UAE. Experts say that in the UAE, 30 per cent of deaths are due to cardiovascular disease (CVD). A recent report by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) shows that cardiovascular disease is one the leading causes of death in the emirate causing one in every five deaths.
"The average age in the West in which a heart attack can occur is between 50 and 65 years but in the UAE it is happening between 45 and 55 years," explains Dr Joseph.
Unhealthy lifestyle, inactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, stress and a family (genetic) disposition can be blamed for heart disease.
"Lack of awareness in the community is one of the key concerns along with lifestyle-related factors," explains Dr Stanley George, Specialist Cardiologist at Medeor 24x7 Hospital in Dubai.
"Many people suffering from CVD don't take timely action because they are unaware of the symptoms. This for many could be the difference between life and death," he says.
People can stop the disease in its tracks by cutting down on smoking, going for regular checkups and keeping a check on their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, say the experts. "Without the right lifestyle changes, arteries will continue to get clogged with fatty plaque, causing the return of angina, a heart attack or stroke," adds Dr Stanley.
According to doctors, CVD is not a 'men-only' disease. "This was a concept earlier but now more women are dying due to heart disease than breast or uterine cancer," says Dr Joseph. However, the onset of the disease for women starts after the age of 50.
Up to 70 per cent of people who have had a heart attack can be treated by medicine alone. "If it is an acute case, then we do angioplasty and put in stents to open clogged arteries but if there are multiple blockages then it is recommended to do a bypass surgery," says Dr Joseph.
He also says that advancement in technology has improved outcomes and even the most complex disease can be corrected.
"Despite the fact that awareness on heart disease has largely improved, knowledge is not being put into practice.people need to change their attitudes," he adds.
'Smoking almost killed me'
"Smoking almost killed me," says 45-year-old Rajesh Jacob.
Recounting the day (November 4, 2015) he almost died due to the sudden feeling of intense suffocation, the Dubai resident says that he used to smoke up to 25 cigarettes in a day.
"I had just parked my car and was accompanied by my brother-in-law, I was about to enter a shop when I suddenly felt I couldn't breathe anymore," he tells Khaleej Times.
"I felt extremely suffocated."The Indian national was rushed to the hospital where an ECG found that he was undergoing a heart attack.
"Doctors found eight blockages of which four were major."
Since angiography was not possible, doctors performed an emergency bypass.
"I survived," he says visibly relieved.Rajesh says that he had a diet like any other normal person and because of his job as a store manager, he walked a lot.
"Though heart problem exists in the family, doctors said it was because of excessive smoking that I had the attack."
"I have now changed my lifestyle and eat in moderation.this is the advice I would give everyone."

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