Youngsters in UAE more prone to heart disease: Doctors

Around half of all stroke victims in UAE are under 45, compared to the global average of 65

United Arab Emirates, February 6, 2018

A growing number of young patients are suffering from a heart disease condition which usually affect those above the age of 50 globally, according to doctors in the UAE. They claim they have even received patients in their twenties who have been diagnosed with the disease.

'The rising number of young patients with atrial fibrillation is a concern, because it is occurring much earlier than the global average,' said Dr Khalid Al Muti, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

'Atrial fibrillation is generally a condition people develop in their fifties, sixties or seventies, but we are diagnosing it in patients younger than 30.'

Dr Al Muti explained that the condition is characterised by an irregular and rapid heartbeat, which is caused by the upper chambers of the heart, generating chaotic electrical signals. The condition can also lead to stroke and heart failure over time.

Doctors are also studying whether there is a link between the incidence of lifestyle diseases and the increased incidence of atrial fibrillation in the UAE. 'Around one-third of strokes can be attributed to atrial fibrillation, as the irregular heart rhythm can cause blood clots which then travel to the brain.'

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the UAE. Around half of all stroke victims in the country are under the age of 45, compared to the global average age of 65. 'Early detection is essential in preventing some of the terrible effects of atrial fibrillation such as stroke.'

Once detected, atrial fibrillation can be managed with medications or by procedures to help restore a normal heart rhythm and to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke.

Doctors may also insert a small monitor under the patient's skin to detect the heart rhythm and alert the patient when it becomes irregular. Almost 250 patients are currently benefiting from round-the-clock care.

'In many cases, making significant lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on the condition.'

Teens with heart disease

Dr Hani Sabbour, consultant, cardiac electro physiology and consultant in advanced heart failure, told Khaleej Times that he had received patients as young as 14 who suffer from atrial fibrillation.

'I received a 14 year old boy who had Wolf Parkinson White Syndrome (WPW), which resulted in very rapid atrial fibrillation.'

The young boy's heart rate hit almost 240 beats per minute. 'The kid nearly passed away and had to be given electrical shock in the emergency room.'

Dr Sabbour said during his career in the US, he received only two patients in 13 years who suffered from conditions related to atrial fibrillation, known as the Brugada syndrome.

In the UAE however, Dr Sabbour has received more than 100 patients in less than five years. Moreover, he said within the last year alone, more than 200 procedures for heart rhythm disorders were conducted at the clinic.

'The patients are typically in their thirties in the UAE, whereas the patients I saw in the US were usually in their sixties.'

He said atrial fibrillation can be caused by various reasons, which includes genetics.

Dr Sabbour stressed that the high prevalence of obesity in the UAE has also helped lead to the large number of young patients suffering from the disease.