By K.S. RAMKUMAR, RAMKUMAR@ARABNEWS.COM Published: Sep 8, 2010 16:12
Cardiologists say high cholesterol levels are a major cause of heart disease, the No. 1 cause of death in this part of the world. Over 25 percent of deaths in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf are caused by cardiovascular disease. In fact, recent studies show that more than half of the Gulf population suffers from abnormal cholesterol levels, a quarter has high blood pressure and 15 to 25 percent have diabetes. These numbers coupled with a rapid increase in the rate of obesity adds up to alarming statistics. Substantiating this is Dr. Omar K. Hallak, board member, Emirates Cardiac Society, and consultant interventional cardiologist at the chief intervention cardiology department, American Hospital, Dubai. “Most patients don’t achieve the desired reduction in their cholesterol levels because they don’t follow the treatment, such as diet and exercise recommendations, despite being treated with cholesterol-lowering medication. Like any muscle, the heart needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients, which are carried to it by the blood in the coronary arteries. Narrowing of the arteries decreases that supply and can cause angina (chest pain) when the heart muscle does not receive enough oxygen. Cholesterol plaques can rupture, resulting in a blood clot formation that completely blocks the artery, stopping all blood flow and causing a heart attack, in which heart muscle cells die from lack of oxygen and nutrients. High cholesterol is more common in men younger than 55 years and in women older than 55 years. The risk for high cholesterol increases with age.