IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON DIABETES CENTRE PHYSICIAN IS ON A MISSION TO SPREAD AWARENESS OF FH, A GENETIC DISEASE PREVALENT IN THE GULF

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The National Lipid Association in the US will recognise the Al Ain-based physician for her for contributions to the field of lipidology on FH Awareness Day, 24 September

Dr Sarah Ali-Qureshi

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Al Ain-based internal medicine consultant Dr Sarah Ali-Qureshi, who is in the US this week to accept an award from the National Lipid Association for her work in the field of lipidology, runs a clinic focused on finding at-risk patients to offer life-saving early interventions for FH, less commonly known by its full name of familial hypercholesterolemia, and other complex lipid disorders. The fellowship award will be presented on FH Awareness Day, 24 September.

As one of only a few physicians in the region to be trained and certified by the American Board of Clinical Lipidology, Dr Ali-Qureshi established a lipid clinic in Al Ain in 2017 as part of Mubadala Health’s Imperial College London Diabetes Centre.

Working with a multidisciplinary team at this clinic, Dr Ali-Qureshi provides advanced care for children and adults with high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and other complex lipid disorders.

She has treated many patients who have FH, an inherited genetic disorder that affects the body’s ability to manage cholesterol.

“FH results in very high levels of low-density lipoproteins, known as LDL or bad cholesterol. This continued exposure to high levels of LDL leads to a 20-fold increase in the risk of premature cardiovascular disease,” she explains.

Dr Ali-Qureshi says the FH Foundation estimates that only about 10% of people with FH have been diagnosed. “Diagnosis is essential as we can then begin early treatment that will lower the risk for heart disease or stroke,” she explains.

While lifestyle treatments are helpful in lowering cholesterol, in cases of FH, patients, including children, often need medication too. In the UAE, there are three main types of medication, namely statins, which inhibit cholesterol production; ezetimibe, which decreases intestinal cholesterol absorption, and PCSK-9 inhibitors, which are normally used if statins and ezetimibe are insufficient.

“The earlier the intervention, the better the outcomes, especially in cases of homozygous FH, which is more difficult to treat and which can cause children to suffer from cardiac events,” says Dr Ali-Qureshi.

She explains that FH can be either heterozygous, which is more common, or the less common homozygous type, depending on whether the condition is inherited from one or both parents. 

The FH Foundation estimates that about 1 in 250 people worldwide has heterozygous FH, characterised by very high LDL cholesterol (above 190 for adults or above 160 for children) and a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease or stroke. In contrast, the Foundation says around 1 in 300,000 people globally has homozygous FH, which is characterised by extremely high levels of LDL cholesterol and symptoms can be seen in childhood.

According to Dr Ali-Qureshi, genetic testing can confirm cases of FH, and cascading testing can be performed to identify all affected individuals within a family. In addition, genetic counselling can help couples to assess the associated risks. It is her hope that the country or region will one day be able to establish an FH registry. The aim of the registry would be to get all FH patient records on one database – according to UAE laws and ensuring privacy of the data – thereby allowing for the information to be analysed and leading to improved patient care.

Dr Ali-Qureshi will receive her Fellow of the National Lipid Association (FNLA) Award at the Annual Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Florida, US.  According to the NLA, the award is reserved for members who have made significant regional and/or national contributions to the science and practice of clinical lipidology.

FH Awareness Day was established in 2012 by the FH Foundation to raise awareness of familial hypercholesterolemia worldwide.  

About Mubadala Health:

Mubadala Health is the integrated healthcare network of Mubadala Investment Company. Established in 2021, Mubadala Health operates, manages, and develops a portfolio of healthcare assets including: Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Healthpoint, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), Amana Healthcare, National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Capital Health Screening Centre (CHSC), Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre (ADTC), Danat Al Emarat, HealthPlus Diabetes & Endocrinology Center, HealthPlus Family Clinics, HealthPlus Fertility, HealthPlus Women’s Health Center, Moorfields Eye Hospital Abu Dhabi, and a stake in Al Meswak Dental Clinics Group. With a vision to transform the regional healthcare landscape, Mubadala Health sets a new benchmark for the UAE and regional healthcare industry through its state-of-the-art facilities and world-class caregivers who strive to put patients first across its continuum of care. Innovation, research, and education are the foundational pillars of Mubadala Health, supporting the further development of a sustainable healthcare sector in line with the vision of Abu Dhabi and the region.

Mubadala Health is on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn with the handle: @mubadalahealth.

About Imperial College London Diabetes Centre:

Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), a Mubadala Health partner, is a state-of-the-art outpatient facility that specialises in diabetes treatment, research, training and public health awareness. In just over a decade, the Centre has gained international renown for its holistic approach to the treatment of diabetes and related complications that enables patients to receive the full spectrum of care they need in one place.

With more than 80 diabetes professionals and endocrinologists under one roof, ICLDC offers best-in-class medical attention from first diagnosis to disease management across 11 specialist practice areas including adult and paediatric endocrinology, treatment of metabolic and electrolyte disorders, pre- and post-bariatric surgery care, heart disease prevention, nutritional advice, diabetes education services, ophthalmology, nephrology and podiatry.

ICLDC was established in 2006 in Abu Dhabi by Mubadala in partnership with the UK’s Imperial College London to address the growing demand for diabetes care in the UAE. The centre now operates three branches across Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, touching the lives of more than one million people through patient-centric programmes and public health initiatives. In 2007, ICLDC launched Diabetes. Knowledge. Action, now the longest running public health awareness campaign in the country. The initiative promotes an active lifestyle through an ongoing calendar of events for the whole community – Major activations include an annual walkathon that coincides with the World Diabetes Day in November.