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Take care of your heart

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Heart Failure is a serious and growing health problem across the Middle East and Africa (MEA), where prevalence is markedly higher than the global average.

Around one in five people in the general population after 40 years of age in the Middle East is expected to develop Heart Failure (HF) at some point in their lifetime, according to a recent report published in the Saudi Heart Association,

Even here in the Sultanate of Oman, as per the 2017 survey, non-communicable diseases (NCD) represent a major public health issue and currently cause 185.75 deaths per 100,000 population in Oman.

To improve this outlook, an assembly of experts from across the region has been discussing ways to address the increasing burden of heart failure based on their real-world, professional experiences.

The report, also authored by the participants of the assembly, lays out their recommendations on how to reverse current trajectories by urgently improving awareness, diagnosis and prevention of heart failure in MEA.

Heart failure is associated with significant morbidity and mortality and considerably impacts patients' quality of life.

The average age a person will develop heart failure in the Middle East is significantly lower than elsewhere - Africa (53 years), the Middle East (56.4 years), North Africa (58.79 years), Asia (60 years), and Europe (70 years).

Heart failure incurs a substantial economic burden in the MEA region (total estimated costs is $1.92 billion), with recurrent hospitalisations accounting for the bulk of the cost.

According to health experts, risk factors such as diabetes, obesity, smoking and socioeconomic transition, as well as a marked increased intake of fatty foods and physical inactivity, contribute to the higher prevalence of heart failure in the region.

Lack of community-level awareness and high prevalence of associated conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, compounded by poor accessibility and affordability of healthcare, is a significant barrier to the prevention of heart failure in the region.

The wide variations in epidemiology, risk factors, clinical interventions and availability of resources across geographies warrant better insights into the region-specific practices.

There is a paucity of region-specific guidelines that would provide a blueprint of care. The scarcity of specifically trained care workers reduces the region's ability for early detection of at-risk patients.

Recommendations in the report were to prioritise heart failure and its associated comorbidities, such as chronic kidney disease and type 2 diabetes, alongside other infectious diseases, develop region-specific guidelines on heart failure and monitor their implementation, and create local registries to increase the available data on heart failure, train health workers in the early identification of high-risk patients, such as people with hypertension and ischemic heart disease.

In this regard, a physical activity and community health course, organised by the Oman Olympic Academy (OOA), will start on Monday as part of the efforts to engage all groups, including specialists and workers in the health and physical fields, due to the increasing incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases), which are the leading cause of death in the world, with physical inactivity being the fourth leading risk factor for premature death globally.


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