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One in four Saudis risk a cardiac arrest in ten years

25% had diabetes, 34% had hypertension, 25% were smokers, 27% were obese, 86% were not involved in any physical exercise and 19% had dyslipidaemia

One in four adults in Saudi Arabia is set to have a cardiac arrest within the next ten years according to research presented at the 26th Annual Conference of the Saudi Heart Association (SHA), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The researchers from the Prince Salman Heart Centre, King Fahad Medical City in Riyadh, found that due to the high level of risk factors, 26% of participants were at high risk of having a cardiac arrest or dying from a cardiac arrest in the next decade.

"The majority of people we studied were between 20 and 40 years old and 26% were at high risk of a cardiac arrest or death from a cardiac arrest in ten years,” said Dr Muhammad Adil Soofi, first author of the research and assistant consultant in adult cardiology at Prince Salman Heart Centre. “Unhealthy lifestyles start at a young age in the Gulf and people reap the consequences early in life."

Soofi's study investigated the prevalence of risk factors for heart disease in more than 4,900 Saudis living in urban areas who were over 20 years old and had no history of heart disease. Their ten year risk of a cardiac arrest or death from a cardiac arrest was calculated using the Framingham Risk Score.

Most people in the study (85%) were less than 40 years old and 55% were women. The researchers found that 25% had diabetes, 34% had hypertension, 25% were smokers, 27% were obese, 86% were not involved in any physical exercise and 19% had dyslipidaemia. As a result of the high level of risk factors, 26% of participants were at high risk of having a cardiac arrest or dying from a cardiac arrest in ten years.

Unsurprisingly, diabetes had a major impact on risk and when it was excluded as a risk factor, the proportion at high risk of a cardiac arrest or death from a cardiac arrest fell to just over 4%.

“Diabetes doesn't occur in isolation. Diabetic individuals had a significantly increased prevalence of other risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, smoking and dyslipidaemia,” he added. “Diabetes and other risk factors start at an early age in Saudi Arabia. When we looked just at people under the age of 30, we found that 14% were diabetic, 27% were obese, 31% were smokers and 77% were not physically active. So it's a whole package that will lead to heart disease in a decade."

"They eat more fast food and deep fried items and on top of that do not exercise,” he said when explaining that urbanisation, lack of education and Westernisation could be to blame for the unhealthy lifestyles of young Saudis. “Atherosclerosis, obesity and other risk factors set in at a very early stage and ultimately lead to cardiac arrests and even death at a young age."

"We need to educate the public on their doorstep. That means using radio, television and the internet to communicate how to eat healthily, exercise and quit smoking. If the situation remains as it is now, today's 30 year olds will be a burden on society rather than active contributors by age 50."

“Most Gulf countries have young populations. In Saudi Arabia 50% of people are less than 25 years old and their unhealthy lifestyles mean we are facing a serious epidemic of heart disease in 15 to 20 years,” said Professor Hani Najm, SHA vice president, past president and head of international affairs. “Healthy lifestyles are a rare occurrence in the Gulf region and bad habits start early. Nearly one-third of teenagers smoke in some areas and the levels are even higher in others. Young people's addiction to smart phones and social media has turned them into electronic potatoes, today's version of the couch potato but no longer confined to one room as with television. They have zero intention of being physically active. Governments should have a responsibility to provide free indoor gyms and green spaces for exercise."

"The Gulf States have sophisticated tertiary care for heart disease patients but, alarmingly, we lack primary prevention programmes,” Dr Khalid Al Habib, SHA president. “These need to start today so that children and young people do not spend their adult life with diabetes and heart disease."

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