Fast-paced environment. Unhealthy diet. Infrequent exercise. Ringing any bells? It’s all fairly typical of Dubai life. At the end of a long day at work, who wants to trawl around the supermarket to buy fresh ingredients for home-cooking when there are so many fuss-free, relatively cheap take-aways?
And who has the energy to visit the gym or jog around the park after the toils of a working week? And yet, how many of us find the wherewithal to go out of an evening and fill our already exhausted bodies with unhealthy food and drink?
Plenty of Dubai dwellers will recognise themselves in the above, and no doubt intend to mend their ways…some day. But lifestyle-related diseases are reaching dangerous levels in Dubai. If we don’t change the way we live Dubai life now it can only get worse. ‘People are not taking the initiative to make sure they’re looking after themselves,’ says Dr Sunil K Tadepalli, vice president of laboratory operations at Medsol, a pathology testing service.
‘Lifestyle-related diseases are on the increase, yet people have never had less time for their health.’ But there is a quick, easy way to combat this: blood screening.
Blood screening takes the ‘prevention over cure’ approach to health. So, rather than become a victim of diabetes or coronary heart disease – the two most prevalent lifestyle-related illnesses in Dubai – screening identifies dangers early on, allowing you to change your lifestyle and reduce the chances of those diseases developing. ‘The key thing to remember is that these are diseases where it takes maybe 10 to 15 years for complications to occur,’ explains Dr Tadepalli.
‘Before somebody has a heart attack the problems will have started many years back.’ It’s the same case with diabetes. ‘Glucose in the blood can increase over time, but the patient doesn’t know they have a problem until it’s too late,’ he says. This is why blood screening – which can catch those dangers early, so complications cannot arise – is a smart idea.
So what exactly does blood screening detect? Well, in the case of coronary heart disease, screening can test your cholesterol levels to determine whether you are at risk. It can also identify high blood pressure, which is a significant contributory factor. There are high incidences of both these risk factors in Dubai – not surprising when you consider long working hours, infamously bad traffic, and an eating-out culture.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UAE has the fourth highest rate of obesity in the world at 33.7 per cent. Being overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol – it’s a recipe for an aneurysm. But it’s a recipe that you can change if you act in time.
Blood screening can also combat diabetes by measuring blood sugar levels for warning signs. Dr Tadepalli says that if a person is screened early enough they may never contract diabetes. That would make a huge difference to a nation that WHO reports has the second highest incidence of diabetes in the world (19.5 per cent).
Clearly, the UAE is in need of a significant lifestyle overhaul. And, if this doesn’t happen, it stands to reason that the situation will deteriorate even more.
Of course these diseases develop from a combination of factors, and there is no single solution. They can be hereditary, and both diet and exercise have a big impact, as does smoking. It is likely the results of blood screening would identify a variety of changes you need to make. But if it minimises threats to your health surely you’d be willing to make some adjustments?
There’s a possibility that, once screened, you’d need to go regularly to keep an eye on identified risk factors. ‘First you need to take the test, look at the results, and then we take it from there,’ says Dr Tadepalli. ‘If you’re low risk, you probably won’t need another test for five years. If you’re medium or high risk, you might have to go for tests more frequently, and/or start making lifestyle changes or taking medication.’ Luckily, all that is required for screening is a simple blood test, and results tend to come back in 24 hours.
And, if that wasn’t easy enough, Medsol offers home visits, so you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your living room. (Although, in light of the reasons for blood screening, probably best not to encourage the couch potato in you).
It’s easy to run risks with your health in Dubai. You work hard, you play hard and there are opportunities to over-indulge at every turn. But it’s worth taking seriously. ‘Unless there’s some massive intervention, lifestyle-related diseases here will get worse,’ warns Dr Tadepalli. ‘It’s up to everyone to ensure they have increased awareness.’
For more information about blood screening, contact your local hospital.Alternatively, Medsol, part of Gulf Healthcare International, offers blood screening from Dhs40-Dhs2,000. Call 800 633 765 free for Medsol locations.