|17 February, 2019

You're never too young to have a heart attack

What you should do to reduce risks and beat the world's biggest killer: Heart diseases

Heart disease cannot be restricted to age since people suffering heart attacks are now getting younger, according to Dr Ala Eldin Farasin, consultant interventional cardiologist at NMC Hospital, Al Nahda.

"Two years ago, I was called to the emergency room to attend to my very first patient with heart attack," Dr Ala recalled.

"On the phone, I was told he was 27 years old and I thought it was impossible because I had just come from Germany and the average age there was over 60.

"I thought there was something wrong with the ECG, but when I saw the patient, he was indeed a young man with an acute heart attack."

Dr Ala said the typical age for heart disease in the UAE is between 30 and 40 years. "This is because of the lifestyle and genetics, of course." He said this was the reason why prevention and awareness drives are important.

"The first thing people have to change is their lifestyle. We should be aware of the regular exercises that can help keep our hearts healthy," he said. Obesity and excess weight should also be addressed and smoking habits must be cut.

Regular check-ups are needed to detect diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, that may lead to heart attack, he added.

"Diabetics and smokers above 40 should get a check-up, including ECG, echo and treadmill test, within two years and even better if it is done yearly - that is if they do not have any symptoms."

So how do people know if a heart disease is developing?

"Sometimes, the symptoms are not specific. But if there is any change in the ability to do exercise or walk, or any breathing difficulty, then this could be an indicator of heart disease and people should go for a check-up."

Chest pain is another symptom that people should be wary about, the doctor said, and it can be a sign of a heart attack. "The pain can come as heaviness or pressure in the chest, which may radiate to the arm, the neck or even to the back," he said.

He added that, sometimes, pain on the right side of the chest can also be related to the heart. In high-risk patients - such as smokers and those with diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol - any new pain or changes in the chest area should be checked at least once.

"Modifications in lifestyle are important. Diabetes, hypertension and weight should be managed, quitting smoking is also a must," he said.

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