Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gulf youth more susceptible to cardiac diseases

The Gulf Today, 21 Sept 2010

THE younger generation in the Middle East region is dangerously gripped by the fatal clutches of heart disease, when compared to youth in other parts of the world, according to a senior health official. 

Dr Wafaa Ayesh, director of the clinical nutrition department at Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said that the average age for Middle Eastern and UAE patients suffering from heart attacks is 10 years younger than that in many western countries. 

"The dominance of diabetes among the younger age group in the UAE has elevated the rates of cardiac disorders onto an alarming level of challenges," she added. 

While speaking at an awareness seminar conducted on Monday by the DHA on the occasion of World Heart Day 2010, Dr Ayesh pointed out that the alarming rates of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure that prevail in this region are factors that lead to cardiovascular diseases. 

The three-day seminar conducted by the DHA will highlight this year's global heart day theme, "Workplace Wellness," promoting healthy habits and methods of maintaining them, while in a work environment. 

Quoting research results, the clinical nutrition expert stated, "It is a known fact that cardiovascular disease, which results in heart attacks, heart failure and strokes, is the leading cause of death globally, and the UAE is no different." 

"The irony is that these are mainly lifestyle diseases and lifestyle modification can significantly reduce the chances of developing a cardiovascular disease," she pointed out. 

"The reasons for cardiovascular diseases, besides physical inactivity, also lie with the region's existing dietary patterns, which include a high level of daily consumption of fat and carbohydrates," said Dr Ayesh. 

"Despite having such a huge number of diabetics in the country, a large percentage of people do not know of the link between the two diseases," she added. 

According to her, the public is still unaware of the damage to the heart that is caused by lifestyle diseases including diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. 

She advised people to focus on the need of regular screenings: "Normally, all healthy adults, above the age of 40, should check their cholesterol level every six months." 

"But, the cholesterol should be monitored on a three-month basis if it's hereditary, as the patient's condition may be worse in such cases," she warned. 

"While the cholesterol level should be monitored once in three months, blood sugar and pressure may require to be monitored on a more regular basis as per the directions of the physician," she elaborated. 

"A yearly check-up should suffice for people below the age group of 40, with no hereditary factors at play and for those who do not have any of these conditions," added Dr Ayesh. 

"Apart from providing healthy and nutritious food to the community, proactive community initiatives such as these are a fundamental way to raise public awareness on managing health and wellbeing," she opined. 

Muna Al Shammar, head of the nutrition education unit in the clinical nutrition department at DHA, said, "This test is important because it reveals the actual physical age of a person's heart and thus is a good indication to find out the damage caused to the heart by unhealthy lifestyle choices." 

"The test provides us a scale to measure the amount of change which will need to be incorporated in a person's diet and lifestyle to ensure further damage is prevented," she added. 

"Several clinical dieticians from the hospitals and public healthcare clinics are involved in this seminar and workshop and the focus is to promote a suitable diet plan for patients with heart disease," said Samya Al Sayegh, head of development and follow up section in the clinical nutrition department at the DHA. 

"A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fibre will help reduce cholesterol levels," she added. 

The DHA's heart wellness programme, in cooperation with Al Ghurair Foods, highlighted a healthy and active lifestyle for the whole family. The clinical nutrition department at Rashid Hospital conducted all these tests for individuals at the workshop and conducted a test to check the age of an individual's heart. 

"On [Tuesday], visitors have the opportunity to get their body mass index, blood sugar and blood pressure tested by trained medical experts. Dieticians will also explain the food pyramid to visitors so that they can play their diet keeping in mind the required calorie count and nutrition," she explained. 

"[Moreover, an] in-depth workshop will be conducted on topics ranging from ways to examine the age of our heart, learning the importance of physical activity and how we can lose calories, learning about common food myths and facts, being aware about the benefits of Omega-3, the role of dietary fiber and most importantly, the ideal way of healthy cooking," elaborated Djamal Djouhri, CEO of Al Ghurair Foods. 

According to him, a healthier lifestyle for everyone should be the top most priority in the community.
(Pic: Supplied)

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