This is certainly a possibility given the nature of an international life. It’s busy and ambitious, but it can be very stressful. Not to mention the heat, and a lack of time to eat well or exercise.
For a good example, look no further than Dubai; 90% of residents are expats, and a reported 30% of deaths are related to heart disease. On average, people in Dubai are dying from heart disease 10 years younger than in western countries.
What are the causes?
There are numerous established causes of heart disease, for example poor diet. According to the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), 36% of men and 30% of women in Dubai are obese – 95% of these cases are caused by fast food and lack of exercise.
After a long commute, a stressful day at work and the journey home, many may feel too tired – both mentally and physically – to prepare healthy meals.
“A healthy diet can help reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease and stop you gaining weight, reducing your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.”
British Heart Foundation
The same could be said about exercise, with expats often unable to find the time. A sedentary lifestyle can creep in, increasing the risk of heart problems.
Medical experts say around 30% of the UAE population smokes, including shisha pipes, which are popular in the country. Some restaurants and shopping malls still provide smoking areas despite the push for bans in public places in recent years.
The heat can make you sweat more and your heart beat faster. For anyone working outside, this is a real danger. Even young and healthy workers could be at risk of heart attacks as a result of working hard in soaring temperatures.
What should I do about it?
Think about your location when planning how to keep your heart healthy. In the case of Dubai, that would be to ensure you have sufficient heat protection.
You could factor this in when planning a balanced diet. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables with high water content will help protect against dehydration. Cucumbers and lettuce are both 96% water, while watermelon and strawberries are around 92%.
Most heart campaigners around the world champion a healthy diet. The British Heart Foundation says: “A healthy diet can help reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease and stop you gaining weight, reducing your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.”
Finding time to exercise will also make a huge difference to your heart. It makes sense to check what your employer can do to help; they may offer gym facilities on site or nearby, making it easier to fit into your daily routine.
Meanwhile, in the summer, children can attend boot camps to learn about healthy eating and active living.
If you want to quit smoking, then there is help at hand in Dubai. The DHA offers smoking cessation clinics, which reported increased numbers of people quitting in 2015.
Keep an eye out for mobile health clinics too, such as the one ran in December 2016 by the Ministry of Health. Smokers were given full checks to reveal any damage to their health, and advice on the best methods to quit.
What are governments doing about it?
Dubai has recognised that prevention is the key, by changing people’s habits early in life. This has culminated in a range of initiatives over the past year.
The Government’s five-year plan to enhance health services, launched in 2016, includes promoting healthy lifestyles to improve prevention rates.
Recently, DHA workshops visited schools to teach adolescents about nutrition, with promising results. Among the obese children who took part, there was a 7% decrease in obesity levels.
The DHA has also tried to appeal to more tech-savvy residents, with Twitter campaigns such as #30dayswithoutsugar to coincide with the New Year.
But the UAE is not the only country taking action. The WHO has set global targets to reduce deaths from heart diseases by 2025. This has encouraged countries like India to follow suit and set their own targets.
The overall aim will be to emulate a country like Japan, which consistently has the lowest death rate from heart diseases, topping WHO statistics in both 2000 and when the WHO last counted, in 2012.