Survey Reveals Young UAE Nationals Unaware of Family History’s Role in Heart Health
Cardiologists at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi have stressed the importance of understanding family history in heart health, as it can provide a vital warning given the prevalence of conditions associated with sudden cardiac death in the UAE.
While poor diet and lifestyle are commonly understood contributors to heart disease, specialists at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala’s network of healthcare providers, are highlighting genetic factors that can play a role. Understanding risk factors and receiving screening can be life-saving, allowing doctors to deliver preventative care as soon as possible.
“I’ve treated patients who have lost siblings and other relatives to cardiac death at very young ages. There are genetic factors at play here, and I urge anyone with a family history of unexplained cardiac death to get screened as soon as possible, as there are potentially life-saving treatments available,” says Dr. Khalid Almuti, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Heart & Vascular Institute.
Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia) can cause unexpected cardiac arrest when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions. When this happens, blood is not delivered to the rest of the body, requiring immediate emergency treatment to save the patient’s life. While people may experience a racing heartbeat, or a feeling of dizziness before cardiac arrest, more than half of all cases occur without prior symptoms.
A survey conducted by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi revealed that 51 percent of surveyed UAE nationals aged between 18 and 29 were unaware of the role family history plays in heart disease. Experts agree that people with a family history are significantly more likely to develop some form of heart disease over their lifetimes.
“The good news is that, provided people are screened for conditions such as ventricular fibrillation, that cause cardiac death, we have a variety of tools at our disposal to manage them and potentially prevent unnecessary loss of young lives. One of my patients, who lost a number of close family members, came for genetic testing and we found evidence that suggested she was at extremely high risk. We were able to implant a defibrillator next to her heart to deliver life-saving therapy should she experience cardiac arrest. In other cases, when the findings are inconclusive, we can implant a very small remote monitoring device under the skin that alerts the patient and our healthcare team if it detects any hint of abnormal rhythms,” explains Dr. Almuti.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s remote heart monitoring program is the first of its kind in the UAE. Patients are implanted with a small device under their skin and benefit from round the clock monitoring by their care team who work closely with their colleagues at Cleveland Clinic in the United States, ranked the country’s number one heart center. The device transmits abnormal findings to a patient’s care team, allowing them to establish a diagnosis and monitor the patient’s response to therapy remotely. In extreme cases, the team can also alert emergency services.
Patients who are most at risk can be implanted with defibrillators to shock their hearts back to a normal rhythm, potentially saving their lives. “We leverage the latest, most sophisticated technology to identify persons at highest risk of cardiac arrest. Sometimes the slightest warning sign may mean the difference between life and death”, added Dr. Almuti.
“Understanding your risk is the first step to being able to live with a lot less uncertainty. My patients tell me that knowing their heart is being monitored or that they have a defibrillator implant for emergency situations really gives them a great deal more confidence in their day to day life,” says Dr Almuti.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is participating in the “UAE Healthy Future Study”, which aims to shed light on the reasons for the high prevalence of heart disease in the UAE national population alongside other health conditions. The study is a prospective observational cohort study that seeks to determine how the health of 20,000 UAE Nationals aged between 18 and 40 is affected by their lifestyle, environment and genes, specifically looking at risk factors for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
For people concerned about their heart health or those who believe they are experiencing heart symptoms, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Emergency Department is open to patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Designated as the chest pain center for Abu Dhabi, patients who visit the Emergency Department are seen by a doctor in less than 8 minutes on average, providing piece of mind and rapid treatment options.