A very startling statistic is the population here in the MENA region is developing heart failure 10 years younger than their Western counterparts. To help us understand heart failure and its associated symptoms, HEALTH meets with Cardiologist Dr. Feras Bader.
Common risk factors of heart failure include high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidaemia leading to coronary artery disease, cigarette smoking, and obesity. Many of these are associated with a more Western-type lifestyle and presently highly prevalent in the Middle-East population,” says Dr. Bader.
What it Means
Heart failure, explains Dr. Bader, often occurs when the heart muscle has suddenly become weak following a heart attack or other illnesses affecting the heart, or by damage sustained more gradually due to diabetes, high blood pressure, or coronary artery disease.
According to Dr. Bader, the most common symptoms of heart failure are shortness of breath, symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, and body swelling, especially in the legs and abdomen. “However, unless people are aware of the symptoms of heart failure and they and their physicians think of heart failure as a possibility, many of these symptoms could last for some time before they are diagnosed,” he notes.
The MENA Region
The biggest differences in risk factors between the MENA region and the Western world, he tells, is the prevalence of hypertension and diabetes as well as obesity. “If we look at these risk factors, their percentages are significantly higher than in developed countries and we believe that it is because of this, that patients are diagnosed with heart failure at a younger age compared to their counterparts in the West,” he explains, and specifically, Type
1 diabetes, the diabetes that affects children, is very endemic in the Middle East, and because it starts at such a young age, it means people are going to live with it for a long time. With this being the case, the likelihood of developing heart disease is probably going to be higher at a younger age.
Unique Challenges Require Unique Responses
The Heart Failure Roadmap report found that the MENA region has unique challenges in heart failure that require unique responses. Studies suggest that re-hospitalization rates are much higher in MENA than in other countries. These, suggests Dr. Bader, may be driven, in part, by inadequate awareness and understanding of heart failure at all levels of the health system and inconsistent patient follow up. These high re-admission rates are costly and often avoidable.
Heart failure, reveals Dr. Bader, is the number one reason for hospitalization for people over 65 across the globe, placing a huge social and economic burden on patients and their families. The pressures of heart failure are set to
grow across MENA, driven by the high prevalence of risk factors for non-communicable diseases in the region which are often left unchecked and unchallenged.
The MENA Heart Failure Alliance
The MENA Heart Failure Alliance, the region’s first dedicated group for heart failure management, will be dedicated to combat heart failure, establish a clear roadmap of priority actions, and develop locally applicable interventions and policies following the key focus areas identified through the Roadmap Report findings.