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Health tips to UAE patients to avoid hospitalisation during holidays
Heart failure affects around 26 million people worldwide.

The holiday season offers a chance to relax, spend time with family and friends, travel, and enjoy a change in routine.

However, for people living with heart failure this change in routine can take its toll on heart health, prompting local cardiologists to offer UAE patients some helpful hints on how to best avoid hospitalisation over the holiday.

Heart failure is a debilitating and potentially life-threatening condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood around the body . It affects around 26 million people worldwide and results in more than 1 million hospitalisations annually both in Europe and the United States.

Dr Feras Bader, Consultant Cardiologist from the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, says heart failure is the number one reason for hospitalisation for people over 65 across the globe, while in the Middle East these patients tend to be 10 years younger , placing a huge social and economic burden on patients and their families.

“It is established that the most common cause of re-hospitalization for heart failure is dietary and medication indiscretion. Therefore, advanced heart failure management programs put a lot of emphasis on patient education to encourage self-care, as it does reduce hospitalization rates,” Dr Feras said.

Dr. Hani Sabour, Consultant Cardiologist at Shaikh Khalifa Medical City Abu Dhabi UAE says self-care plays a huge role in the survival of heart failure patients and changes in a routine can be detrimental unless they ensure their treatment regime is strictly followed.

“We need to make sure patients are not increasing their risk of hospitalisation or even death over the holiday by interrupting their self-care routines, including adherence to medication, diet, and exercise, as well as monitoring symptoms and daily weight to assess fluid retention plus seeking assistance when symptoms occur,” Dr Hani said.

Heart Failure often occurs when the heart muscle has suddenly become weak a heart attack or other illnesses affecting the heart, or by damage sustained more gradually due to diabetes, high blood pressure or coronary artery disease.

A 2004 study found that heart-related deaths increase by nearly 5 per cent during the holidays, perhaps because patients delay seeking treatment until after the holidays or those who are traveling might take longer than usual to find competent medical help.

Dr. Pradeep Kumar Gupta, Consultant Cardiologist at Saif & IBHO Hospital, Ras Al Kheima, said people living with conditions such as heart failure should enjoy the holidays but that it is important they make a ‘healthy heart plan’ in advance.

“Holidays can be hard on the heart if you’re not prepared,” Dr Gupta said. “For those with heart failure the holidays can be an especially tricky time. We have a tendency to exercise less and eat more – and often our food choices aren’t the healthiest,” Dr Gupta said. “People can also forget to take their prescribed medication,” he added.

Here are some healthy heart tips for the holiday season:

Make a (realistic) holiday plan

A change in routine can mean your healthy habits get forgotten. Think ahead to decide when you’ll fit in your 30 minutes of activity each day and make a promise to yourself to choose healthier meal options.

“It can also be helpful to think about how you’ll handle family and friends trying to persuade you to have second helpings or to make unhealthy food choices,” Dr Feras said.

Watch what you eat

Holiday food tends to come in large portions and is often high in fat, sugars and salt. “Limiting fluid and salt intake is essential every day of the year for those living with heart failure,” Dr Hani said.

Eating a healthy snack before a large family meal will curb your appetite and help you eat less at the event.

Keep moving

Daily activity is important for everyone, especially those with heart failure, but can easily be forgotten when there’s a lot happening.

Consider committing to an hour of ‘you time’ first thing each morning when you do your preferred exercise, relax, and think about your healthy heart plan for the day ahead.

Talk to your doctor if you’re travelling

If you’re travelling away from home talk to your doctor first. It’s a good idea to have the details of a cardiologist near to where you’re travelling and your regular doctor will be able to recommend someone.

You might also need to fill a new prescription to make sure you have enough medication for the whole time you are away.

“Air travel can also put added stress on the heart and your doctor can tell you the best ways to manage this,” Dr Gupta said.