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Rapid urbanization as well as cultural habits explain Gulf states' rise in heart disease prevalence
Date:1/25/2012

While the rapid improvement in socio-economic conditions is thought responsible for the high rates of cardiovascular disease in the Gulf states, deep-rooted cultural factors also play a part. "We're sitting on a time bomb," says Professor Hani Najm, Vice-President of the Saudi Heart Association, whose annual conference begins Friday 27 January. "We will see a lot of heart disease over the next 15 to 20 years. Already, services are saturated. We now have to direct our resources to the primary prevention of risk factors throughout the entire Middle East."

World Health Organization figures show that up to 60% of males in Arab countries and up to 70% of females are overweight and obese. Prevalence rates of diabetes and hypertension are around 25%, while inactivity rates among the over-20s are even higher. But the explanation, says Professor Najm, is not just rapid urbanisation and ubiquitous travel by car. There are, in addition, many social and cultural barriers to exercise, especially among women, who find it difficult to find the opportunities and encouragement to take organised exercise.

Smoking - cigarettes and waterpipe

And now there is further evidence that the cultural heritage of the Middle East may present yet another growing risk factor in the region's battle against heart disease. The waterpipe - also know as the hookah or shisha - is now said to be used by up to 34% of Middle Eastern adolescents. Despite a perception that the risk of the waterpipe may be less than those of cigarettes, a recent report suggests that its "harmful effects are similar to those of cigarettes", and that the waterpipe may offer "a bridge" to cigarette smoking.(1) The greatest prevalence of use - with up to 34% reported - is currently among adolescents and women.

A recent study from the Gulf Registry of Acute Coronary Events (GRACE), the region's largest, found that 38% of patients registered were cigarette smokers and 4.4% waterpipe sm
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Contact: ESC Press Office
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European Society of Cardiology
Source:Eurekalert

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