Hypertension in the UAE

Cardiovascular diseases are among the top killers of the UAE population as they accounted for more than 25% of all deaths in the UAE in 2010, and their effect only increases with time. This is not very surprising considering the lifestyle of a large part of the UAE’s population, which is significantly correlated to the leading causes of cardiovascular diseases like tobacco use, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.

Moreover, one of the biggest risk factors of cardiovascular diseases is hypertension, which is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the blood vessels having a high pressure. High blood pressure can decrease life expectancy and increase mortality as well as it can lead to cardiovascular diseases. In a study published in 2014 that was conducted by the Dubai Health Authority, it was reported that about 1 of 4 adults in Dubai are hypertensive. The study cited the absence of a balanced healthy diet and regular exercise as the main cause for the unsettling results. Of those diagnosed with hypertension in the study, more than 18% of them were Emirati nationals, and they were the biggest nationality to be diagnosed with hypertension in this study.

The great drawback that is associated with the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension is the lack of visible symptoms. Hence, it has been named the “silent killer,” and more than 9 million people globally fall victims to it every year. A study conducted on adults UAE citizens (18-75 years old) from Sharjah published in 1999 found that 36% of the 3150 participants in the study had hypertension, but only 26% of them actually knew that they were hypertensive. This means that 10% of the participants were not taking any antihypertensive medications or receiving any treatment as a result of their ignorance about their medical condition.

Professionals accentuate that keeping a healthy blood pressure is not very difficult; the public must understand it and its causes to be able to make informed decisions in their lives to stay healthy. Hypertension is a preventable disease, and a lot of efforts are put into both educating the public about it through awareness and prevention campaigns, and into studying it by the collection of much-needed data regarding hypertension in relation to the UAE’s population. One of the newly-emerged campaigns to educate the public about hypertension prevention and management is held by the Emirates Neurology Society in association with the Aster Hospitals and Clinics. Starting 2017, the campaign provided free hypertension screening for 3 days in May, the hypertension awareness month, across Aster Hospital’s health care facilities.

The increase in the number of people developing hypertension in the UAE is concerning and it must be addressed as soon as possible. It’s important to note that general awareness campaigns to are not enough seeing as a lot of the youth seems aware of the possibilities but not so much about the bigger, long-term consequences that developing hypertension implies.