Advanced heart problems are becoming more common in younger people throughout the region, a situation that directly relates to poor lifestyle habits.
“In this region, we see patients presenting with severe heart conditions almost a decade earlier than in the West,” says Dr Faisal Hasan, a staff physician in the Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. “We see a significant number of patients in their 30s and 40s with cardiovascular problems and in some rare instances even earlier.”
On the eve of World Heart Day tomorrow, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is reminding the public that the road to heart health starts with a focus on a well-balanced diet, physical activity and quality sleep from a young age.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality worldwide and in the UAE. Many major risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity and physical inactivity can be controlled early in life, lowering the risk of heart disease at a later stage.
A 2019 survey of 1,000 residents in the UAE by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi found that 71 per cent respondents have at least one major risk factor for heart disease.
“Caring for the heart and prevention of disease should start early. By the time people are in their 40s and 50s, it is sometimes too late to reverse a lot of the damage done. Habits of a healthy diet and adequate activity levels need to be instilled earlier,” says Dr Hasan. “There is also a very high prevalence of smoking among youngsters here.”
Smoking is a major contributor for ischemic heart disease, a condition where plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries, obstructing blood flow to the heart muscle and ultimately causing a heart attack.
While challenges to heart health have been exacerbated in 2020 due to movement restrictions and changes in routine because of the global pandemic, another often-overlooked risk factor for heart disease is good quality sleep.
“Often I see teenagers out late in the evening at the mall, which means that they are unable to get the right amount of sleep,” says Dr Hasan. “Irregular and insufficient sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular disease because it disrupts biological processes like glucose metabolism and blood pressure.”
• Tuesday, September 29, 2020 is World Heart Day. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is encouraging people to take small steps for a healthier heart with a new awareness campaign, ‘What makes your heart beat?’. The campaign provides residents more information about cardiovascular disease, risk factors, treatment options and tips to lead a healthy lifestyle.