Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi expert says many young women unaware of risk factors

Dr. Dima Quraini, staff physician at the Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: The risk of cardiovascular disease in women, once considered a problem common among those after menopause (45-55), is on the rise in younger patients largely because of their unhealthy lifestyle choices, says a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health.

According to the Department of Health, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Abu Dhabi among men and women. The main risk factors for heart disease include diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, being overweight or obese, and family history of heart issues. About 80 percent of women in the US have at least one risk factor for heart disease.[1]

“It was previously believed that premenopausal women are protected from heart disease because of the beneficial effects of estrogen on the arteries and cholesterol. When estrogen is depleted in the post menopausal state, this can lead to endothelial dysfunction that can lead to blockages of the arteries. Indeed, classic heart attacks due to plaque formation and rupture in the arteries of the heart are predominantly seen in postmenopausal women, however our clinic is now seeing an increase in risk factors and heart disease in premenopausal women, which echoes a global trend,” says Dr. Dima Quraini, staff physician at the Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

“Premenopausal women are at now at a higher risk of developing heart disease because there is a higher incidence of diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and complicated pregnancies among this group. They are also at risk of suffering from heart attacks due to less frequent pathologies such as tears in the arteries of the heart or spontaneous coronary artery dissection.”

Dr. Quraini says that many women are still unaware of these risk factors and that is why it takes longer to diagnose heart disease in women when compared to men. Women who suffer a heart attack are more likely than men to die of it.

Sixty four percent of women who participated in a heart health survey of 1,000 residents commissioned by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi in 2020 said that they did not suffer from the common risk factors for heart disease. But about 59 per cent of those women also said that they had not discussed their heart health with their doctor in the past year.

“Unfortunately, I see many women who have never had their cardiac risk assessed. They have not had their cholesterol level checked, been asked about their family history of heart disease, or have discussed any adverse outcomes of pregnancies with their physicians. As these risk factors go undetected, they are offered less aggressive treatment options at earlier stages.”

She shares the example of a new mother in her early 30s who was treated for heart failure at the hospital. “We initially thought that her condition was related to her postpartum status, but on further investigation found that she was genetically predisposed to high cholesterol and her levels were extremely high. She had severe blockages in her arteries and had to have a coronary bypass in her 30s. She was completely unaware of her condition.”

Dr. Quraini says another problem that women with families identify is a lack of time to prioritize their health, including regular exercise. She advises women to apply small daily changes to their lifestyle and avoid quick fixes to get fit.

“Women must avoid fad diets as this does more harm than good because they are not sustainable and can restrict key nutrients. This can cause a severe energy deficit, muscle loss and other deficiencies. Yo-yo dieting can lead to poor cardiovascular outcomes.”

Instead, she says, eating less processed foods and adopting a Mediterranean diet, which is high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, fish and unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, along with 150 minutes of moderate to intensive activity a week, can help maintain a healthy heart.

“The most important message that I try to communicate is that women are just as susceptible to heart disease and heart attacks as men. Most heart diseases can be prevented by knowing your risk and addressing them early.”

For more information or to book an appointment at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, call 800 8 CCAD (2223) visit or download the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi app.

About Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi:

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health, is a multispecialty hospital on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a unique and unparalleled extension of US-based Cleveland Clinic’s model of care, specifically designed to address a range of complex and critical care requirements unique to the Abu Dhabi population.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has the following Institutes: Heart & Vascular, Neurological, Digestive Disease, Eye, Respiratory, Critical Care, Surgical Subspecialties, Medical Subspecialties, Emergency Medicine, Anesthesiology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Imaging, Quality & Patient Safety, and Clinical & Nursing. In all, more than 40 medical and surgical specialties are represented at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The facilities at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi combine state-of-the-art amenities and world-class service standards. The hospital is a 394 (expandable to 490) bed facility, with five clinical floors, three diagnostic and treatment levels, and 13 floors of critical and acute inpatient units. It is a physician-led medical facility served by North American/European Board Certified (or equivalent) physicians. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi provides patients in the region direct access to the world’s best healthcare providers and Cleveland Clinic’s unique model of care, reducing their need to travel abroad for treatment.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi – Al Ain began offering select medical services in December 2017. The facility is located on the Tawam Hospital Campus in Al Ain.

About Mubadala Health:

Mubadala Health is the integrated healthcare network of Mubadala Investment Company. Established 2021, Mubadala Health operates, manages, and develops a portfolio of healthcare assets including: Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre (ADTC), Amana Healthcare, Capital Health Screening Centre (CHSC), Healthpoint, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), and National Reference Laboratory (NRL). In addition, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is an integral part of Mubadala Health. 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.