CHRONIC diseases, which are linked directly and indirectly to behavioral, nutritional and environmental factors, have emerged as the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the UAE in recent years.
As in the past ten years, non-communicable diseases, notably cardiovascular diseases(CVD), cancers and diabetes, as well as accidents remain the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in the UAE. Except for accidents, mortality from non-communicable diseases increases with age, a Ministry of Health report said.
The highest mortality is in the above sixty years age group and is more significant among males than females. In contrast, accident-related mortality peaks in the most active age groups, 15-44 years, making accidents the leading cause of productive years lost in the Emirates.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) include hypertension, coronary heart disease, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, heart failure, rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart disease and cardiomyopathies.
In the absence of a cardiovascular disease registry and/or reliable morbidity statistics it may be difficult to draw firm conclusion on CVD morbidity in the UAE. However, national data on the cause of death strongly indicate that CVD continue to be the main cause of death in the UAE.
Of the 5434 registered deaths in the UAE in 2000, 1381 were due to cardiovascular diseases making it the primary cause of death in the country. As in previous years, the pattern of CVD mortality during the year 2000 is characterized by: Acute myocardial infarction ( heart attack) is the most frequent cause of CVD deaths accounting for 28 per cent of these deaths in 2000. It is followed by cerebrovascular disease (16.2 per cent), hypertensive disease (13.0 per cent) and ischemic heart disease (12.3 per cent). With the exception of acute rheumatic fever, more CVD deaths are reported among males than females across all age groups. Over 90 per cent of CVD deaths occur over the age of 45 years.
The rationale for prevention and control of community CVD in general and CHD in particular is based on the relationship between the average levels of dominant risk factors such as atherosclerosis and hypertension.
Other prevailing contributing factors, which include lack of physical activity and sedentary lifestyles, faulty eating habits and cigarette smoking are also being considered in the prevention strategies. It is also important to take into account that precursors of risk factors and determinants of CVD problems can start early in life and may vary markedly from one population to the other.
Prevention and control strategies should, therefore, also address many other social and environmental conditions such as patterns of food production and marketing, availability of community facilities that encourage physical activity and tobacco production.
Cancer continues to be a significant cause of global morbidity and mortality accounting for 11.7 per cent of total deaths and preceded only by cardiovascular and parasitic and infectious diseases.
The commonest cancers causing death globally are lung cancer claiming 2.1 per cent of all deaths followed by stomach cancer (1.4 per cent) and colorectal cancer (0.9 per cent) (World Health Organization, The World Health Report 2000).
Lung and stomach cancers are the commonest causes of cancer-related mortality among males followed by liver cancer.
Cancer of the breast is the leading cause of death in females closely followed by lung and stomach cancers.
Cancer is the third leading cause of death in the UAE following cardiovascular diseases and accidents. It accounted for 446 deaths in 1999 and 468 in 2000, or 8.7 per cent and 8.6 per cent of total deaths respectively.