Abu Dhabi, UAE: People as young as 18 are suffering heart attacks brought on by high cholesterol levels, doctors said.
An unhealthy diet, smoking, excess consumption of alcohol, obesity, diabetes and lack of exercise contribute to high cholesterol among young people. Diabetics and those with high blood pressure also often have high cholesterol, making them susceptible to heart attacks.
“I once saw a very young boy from South-East Asia, he was only 18 years old and had a heart attack,” said Dr Hani Sabbour, consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist at Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre.
“I have seen patients from the UAE who, at the age of 24 or 25, have had heart attacks and congestive heart failure. The young age is very striking and very alarming.”
High cholesterol and other fat products in the blood can put a person at risk of developing heart disease, blood-vessel disease and circulation problems. Extra fat in the blood accumulates in the walls of blood vessels.
This can lead to the formation of clots in the arteries that can cause heart attacks, strokes and narrowing of the blood vessels into the limbs.
Limiting the amount of fat in the diet helps to control cholesterol levels, with the intake of egg yolk, meat and cheese, saturated fat found in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods and deep-fried and processed foods in particular to be limited if not avoided altogether.
“High cholesterol is very common and familial hyperlipidemia is estimated to be 1 in 500 patients in Europe. It is probably closer to 1 in 150 to 1 in 200 people here,” said Dr Sabbour.
In Gulf countries, six out of 10 patients and seven out of 10 high-risk patients are unable to achieve safe cholesterol levels, according to a study published in the Arabian Current Medical Research and Opinion last year.
Cholesterol levels differ by age and presence of risk factors such as diabetes, heart disease and smoking.
“The big problem for the Gulf region is that obesity and diabetes are increasing and are much more common at an earlier age,” said Prof Kausik Kumar Ray, professor of public health at Imperial College London.
“Instead of this being an issue in their 50s and 60s, we are now starting to see heart disease much earlier due to excess cholesterol.”
A study last year published in the scientific journal Plos One showed that the majority of patients, 82.6 per cent, in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan remain at high risk of cardiovascular conditions while almost two thirds continue to have inadequately controlled lipid levels.
Dr Mohamed Hassanein, consultant in endocrinology at Dubai Hospital, said doctors need to spend time with patients and explain the importance a healthy lifestyle and taking the right medication. “We have many people who are unsure why they should take medication. They have diabetes, they have a previous heart condition and high blood pressure and yet they get bored and stop taking the treatment.
“A simple explanation to people of what is happening and how it can block your blood vessels gives them a better understanding of the importance of treatment,” Dr Hassanein said.
© The NationalDec 2015