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More than half of all sudden cardiac death cases occur sans prior symptoms
By A Staff Reporter March 12, 2018
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ABU DHABI: Cardiologists at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi have stressed the importance of understanding family history in heart health, as it can provide a vital warning given the prevalence of conditions associated with sudden cardiac death in the UAE.

While poor diet and lifestyle are commonly understood contributors to heart disease, specialists at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala’s network  of healthcare providers, are highlighting genetic factors that can play a role. Understanding risk factors and receiving screening can be life-saving, allowing doctors to deliver preventative care as soon as possible.

“I’ve treated patients who have lost siblings and other relatives to cardiac death at very young ages. There are genetic factors at play here, and I urge  anyone with a family history of unexplained cardiac death to get screened as soon as possible, as there are potentially life-saving treatments available,” says Dr Khalid Almuti, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Heart & Vascular Institute.

Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia) can cause unexpected cardiac arrest when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions. When this happens, blood is not delivered to the rest of the  body, requiring immediate emergency treatment to save the patient’s life. While people may experience a racing heartbeat, or a feeling of dizziness before cardiac arrest, more than half of all cases occur without prior symptoms.

A survey conducted by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi revealed that 51 per cent of surveyed UAE nationals aged between 18 and 29 were unaware of the role family history plays in heart disease.  Experts agree that people with a family history are significantly more likely to develop some form of heart disease over their lifetimes.

“The good news is that, provided people are screened for conditions such as ventricular fibrillation, that cause cardiac death, we have a variety of tools at our disposal to manage  them and potentially prevent unnecessary loss of young lives. One of my patients, who lost a number of close family members, came for genetic testing and we found evidence that suggested she was at extremely high risk. We were able to implant a defibrillator next to her heart to deliver life-saving therapy should she experience cardiac arrest. In other cases, when the findings are inconclusive, we can implant a very small remote monitoring device under the skin that alerts the patient and our healthcare team if  it detects any hint of abnormal rhythms,” explains Dr Almuti.

 Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s remote heart monitoring programme is the first of its kind in the UAE. Patients are implanted with a small device under their skin and benefit from round the clock monitoring by their care team who work closely with their colleagues at Cleveland Clinic in the United States, ranked the country’s number one heart centre. The device transmits abnormal findings to a patient’s care team, allowing them to establish a diagnosis and monitor the patient’s response to therapy remotely. In extreme cases, the team can also alert emergency services.

Patients who are most at risk can be implanted with defibrillators to shock their hearts back to a normal rhythm, potentially saving their lives. “We leverage the latest, most sophisticated  technology to identify persons at highest risk of cardiac arrest. Sometimes the slightest warning sign may mean the difference between life and death”, added Dr Almuti.

“Understanding your risk is the first step to being able to live with a lot less uncertainty. My patients tell me that knowing their heart is being monitored or that they have a defibrillator implant for emergency situations really gives them a great deal more confidence in their day to day life,” says Dr Almuti.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is participating in the “UAE Healthy Future Study”, which aims to shed light on the reasons for the high prevalence of heart disease in the UAE national  population alongside other health conditions.

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