Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Heart diseases emerge as major killer

Even though the UAE has seen an improvement in diagnosis, evaluation, treatment of cardiovascular diseases, still more heart-related campaigns are needed, says Dr Abdullah Shehab

The Gulf Today, 28 Feb 2010

Local medical experts have called for focusing on the prevention rather than treatment of cardiovascular diseases that have emerged as the no.1 killer in the UAE, attaining alarming proportions.
A range of cardiovascular diseases have contributed to 24 per cent of all deaths in Abu Dhabi in the year 2008, according to figures released by the Abu Dhabi Health Authority (HAAD).
Dr Abdullah Shehab, Director of Continuing Medical Education at the Emirates Society of Cardiology, said that only around 10 per cent of the UAE residents are aware of heart issues and follow a healthy lifestyle.
“About 50 per cent residents are aware of their heart conditions, but fail to make any lifestyle changes, while 40 per cent are ignorant of their conditions and do not take any remedial measures,” he explained.
Speaking at a ceremony to announce a new drug for the prevention of heart attacks and ailments in the UAE, Dr Shehab pointed out, “As nearly 40 per cent of the residents are unaware of their heart ailments, and more intensive heart-related campaigns should be organised in order to raise awareness and adopt preventive steps, including medication.”
“Even though the UAE has seen an improvement in diagnosis, evaluation, treatment and the medical management of cardiovascular diseases, still more heart-related campaigns are needed,” he said.
“The cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death in the UAE. By 2015, almost 20 million people in the world will die from cardiovascular ailments, mainly from heart disease and stroke,” he alarmed.
The cardiovascular expert said Rosuvastatin, a lipid lowering drug, reduces cholesterol levels and helps shift the focus of cardiovascular healthcare to prevention rather than treatment of the disease.
“Based on clinical study results in prevention of heart attacks and ailments in the UAE, the drug has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” he said.
"A new phase of cardiologic prevention has begun with this approval. Usually patients are treated after the discovery that they have a cardiological disorder. But this medicine can tackle the early signs of the diseases,” he pointed out.
"Clinical trials have proved that the drug reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack,” noted Dr Shehab.
According to him, previously such patients were not eligible for such treatment.
Dr Azan Binbrek from the Cardiology Department of Rashid Hospital in Dubai said, “An active role should be played in the community to promote health awareness about cardiovascular diseases and their prevention. Heart patients should be asked to lose weight, do regular exercises and stop smoking.”
“The UAE still has a long way to go in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. It is a joint responsibility, the government, media and schools have a role to play to promote healthy lifestyle among kids and keep junk food out of their reach and train them to do  exercises as part of their daily lives,” he opined.
Speaking about the factors responsible for cardiovascular diseases Dr Binbrek said the UAE is the second in the world in terms of diabetes, around 25 per cent of people in the UAE are diabetic.
“In the country, 25 per cent have high blood pressure and 20 to 25 per cent have high cholesterol level. And smoking is dramatically increasing amongst teenagers in the age group of 15 to 18 years,” he explained.
The emirates have a very high rate of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure due to the huge lifestyle changes. The residents must try to prevent these diseases, advised Dr Binbrek.
According to Dr Shehab, the root causes of high prevalence of cardiovascular diseases are the risks factors such as diabetes, smoking, hypertension, lack of exercise and high cholesterol.

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