Medical advancements and the use of cutting-edge technologies, including wearable devices, are transforming heart care, experts said marking World Heart Day.

Physicians from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute told Khaleej Times that thanks to advances in the field of medicine, heart transplantations have a high success rate reaching up to 96 per cent. The hospital performed the UAE’s first full heart transplant in 2017.

“People live for years or even decades after receiving a new heart. However, heart transplants are rare. One main reason for the rarity of heart transplants is the donor shortage. Donors are usually in short supply, and adding to the challenge is that the recipient of the heart must be a good match,” said Dr Mitesh Badiwala, staff physician at the institute.

Dr Badiwala pointed out that in case a heart transplant is not an immediate option, left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) can serve as a mechanical solution.

“The procedure involves placing the LVAD pump to assist in pumping blood from the left ventricle to the rest of the body, requiring surgery under general anaesthesia. This surgical process includes opening the chest, creating a hole in the heart’s apex with a ring attachment, directing the LVAD pump’s inflow through the ring, connecting the outflow graft to the aorta, and tunnelling a driveline through the abdominal wall, linking to a battery and controller. After weaning off cardiopulmonary bypass, the LVAD is activated, and the chest is closed,” Dr Badiwala said and highlighted that LVAD can be a ‘bridge’ to heart transplantation or serve as a permanent therapy, reducing the immediate need for organ transplantation and decreasing mortality rates for severe cardiac and respiratory conditions.

Innovative wearable technologies

Dr Fereidoon Shafiei, staff physician at the Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute, highlighted that the hospital uses innovative wearable technologies in cardiac electrophysiology – a branch of cardiology that deals with the electrical system of the heart and its treatments.

“The traditional approach to electrophysiology studies and ablations heavily relied on fluoroscopy, which exposed patients and healthcare professionals to ionising radiation. The latest advancements in electrophysiology involve 3D mapping systems, which create detailed 3D heart models and track catheter movement for precise arrhythmia localisation. Additionally, fluoroscopy-free ablation, enabled by 3D mapping, eliminates radiation exposure.”

Dr Shafiei noted that wearable devices do not treat cardiac arrhythmias but are diagnostic tools that have reasonably good sensitivity and specificities that can help prognosis.

“CCAD uses innovative wearable technologies in cardiac electrophysiology, including leadless pacemakers for cardiac pacing, 3D mapping tech to minimise or eliminate the use of X-ray radiation during arrhythmia treatment, remote monitoring with devices such as implantable defibrillators, implantable loop recorders for arrhythmia diagnosis, and smartwatches that can give ECG tracings.”

Dr Shafiei underlined these advancements enhance patient care, and improve procedure precision, and success rates. “These innovations enhance individual and population health by reducing radiation risk, shortening procedure times, improving accuracy, lowering healthcare costs due to fewer complications, and promoting patient safety and care standards.”

How to reduce risk of heart disease?

Dr John Paul Carpenter, consultant cardiologist at Healthpoint, said that poor lifestyle choices and obesity are significant triggers of cardiovascular disease.

“Smoking, poor diet, obesity, lack of exercise and substance abuse are significant triggers.”

Dr Carpenter pointed out that family history also plays a critical role.

“If you have first-degree relatives with early onset coronary artery disease, under the age of 60, your risk increases significantly.”

He underscored the importance of diet and warned that excessive calorie intake could lead to obesity, which escalates the risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and high blood pressure.

“Highly processed foods and saturated fats adversely affect lipid levels and can accelerate artery damage, leading to conditions like angina and peripheral vascular disease.”

Dr Carpenter recommended focusing on fruits, vegetables, legumes, and oily fish to increase antioxidant levels and improve cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health.

Age is a significant factor in cardiovascular disease, he said.

“The risk increases with age as the underlying causes develop throughout a lifetime,” he said and emphasised on adopting a healthy lifestyle, engaging in moderate aerobic exercise, screening in your 20s, and focusing on blood pressure, lipid profile, and diabetes status. He underscored the need to seek immediate medical attention if one experiences symptoms like chest discomfort, particularly if associated with breathlessness, light-headedness, or sweating, as this might indicate a heart attack.

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