ABU DHABI // High-profile sports stars who retire early because of heart conditions should be examples to young people to check their cardiac health, UAE doctors said as they marked World Heart Day.
People with heart rhythm disturbances can be predisposed to sudden cardiac death. Manchester City footballer Marc Vivien Foe dropped dead while playing for Cameroon in 2003.
US internationalist Clint Dempsey of the Seattle Sounders in Major League Soccer and Dutchman Patrick Van Aanholt of Sunderland in the English Premier League have been ruled out of action because of heart problems.
Dr Rachel Leiper, a family medicine consultant at King’s College Hospital’s Abu Dhabi clinic, said that sports stars who revealed their heart conditions helped to raise the awareness of cardiac screening among youth.
Rabab Al Tajir is the first female Emirati international and national car rally driver and navigator. She is encouraging people to get screened for diabetes, a condition related to heart disease, at RAK Diabetes Centre in Jumeirah, Dubai, on World Heart Day.
“As a sportsperson, I feel that screening is important to prevent and curtail incidences of diabetes, that can lead to heart disease,” she said.
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy is a genetic condition causing the replacement of cardiac muscle with fibrous, fatty tissue.
It is rare, affecting about one in 5,000 people.
Dr Khalid Al Muti, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said hereditary factors are a likely cause. “If someone is lucky enough to get a warning sign, such as an episode of passing out or feeling faint, this may be an indication they need to do something about it,” he said. “People, particularly athletes, should get themselves checked if they ever feel like they are about to pass out.
“A doctor can check red flags, such as family history, or someone who was feeling fine and then suddenly collapsed without bracing themselves.”
Doctors advise anyone who collapses suddenly to get checked in case they have an undiagnosed heart condition.
More common in the UAE is Brugada syndrome, a heart condition resulting in sudden death that can be hard to detect.
“I treated a young man, just 25, who had a problem with his electrocardiography during his national service medical,” said Dr Al Muti.
“It was highly suggestive of an abnormal condition. He said a relative had died from unexplained reasons at 26 and had unexplained episodes of passing out as a young boy. I explained he was at high risk of sudden death syndrome, so we needed to run more checks.”
There is no national screening programme for heart conditions in the UAE, so figures on the prevalence of heart arrhythmias are not available, but heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the UAE.
About 65 per cent of people with Type 2 diabetes die of heart disease or stroke and are two to four times more likely to die of heart disease.
Dr Leiper said that diabetes is accepted as inevitable in some families. “We are focusing in primary prevention to spot people who are a heart attack waiting to happen,” she said.
“If you’re in a family where everyone has diabetes, it doesn’t feel so scary, but it should do as it has a profound affect on cardiovascular risk.”
Source: uae news