The UAE's Growing Killer: Stroke
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The UAE's Growing Killer: Stroke

Stroke has been one of the most deadly conditions in the United Arab Emirates in recent years. Even more worrying than that, it's growing. Stroke is, however, largely preventable. So what is driving the rise in stroke incidence in the UAE? Here, UMI looks into UAE stroke statistics, and discusses symptoms to watch out for, as well as how to prevent a stroke from happening.

Recently, the word 'stroke' has been in the news as a major health issue for the UAE that is set to become even larger going forward. Just how big of a problem are strokes in the Emirates? A recent case study released by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation states that about ten thousand incidences of stroke occurred in the United Arab Emirates in 2015. This number alone should be a wakeup call to people in the UAE, as it represents 1% of the country’s population. However, this figure may not be the most worrying statistic concerning strokes in the UAE at all. Let’s delve into the topic of strokes in the Emirates, and examine the best ways to make sure that you do not become part of the statistics.


UAE stroke info

Stroke has become a major issue for the UAE’s healthcare systems. The country had 10,000 strokes last year versus 8,000 in 2013. This makes stroke the leading cause of death in the UAE and the 2nd leading cause of disability.

The average stroke victim in the UAE is 20 years younger than the average stroke victim globally. The global average is 65, while the UAE average is 45. Why is this, though? President of the Emirates Neurology Society, Dr. Sohail Abdullah Al Rokn, points to several causal factors, including the UAE’s rates of smoking, high cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure. He went on to elaborate, “Our studies show that 25 per cent of heart disease patients have a stroke, one out of three stroke patients above 45 are diabetics, one out of five stroke patients above 45 are hypertensive, smoking increases the risk of a stroke by three times. So if you are a diabetic, hypertensive and a smoker, your risk of stroke is 20 times higher than others. If you are a woman with all the conditions, then you are at 30 times higher risk than others and if you are also obese in addition to all other symptoms, your risk of stroke is over 40 times higher than others.”

However, the prevalence of the disease in the country is only one piece of the puzzle. In many respects, the nation’s medical care providers are ill equipped to properly treat the condition.

There are only 4 treatment units for strokes in the UAE, and Dr. Al Rokn stated that the country needs more, which he and his organization are working to have built. Having said that, the quickness with which a stroke sufferer gets treated is of paramount relevance to how serious the impact of a stroke will be. President of the Emirates Neurology Society and stroke chapter, Dr. Sohail Abdullah Al Rokn, had some interesting points to mention regarding this. He said, “In the first one minute after a patient experiences stroke, nearly two million brain cells die, within an hour a patient ages 3.6 years and, if proper initiatives are not taken up by the year 2030, it is estimated that there will be 12 million stroke deaths in the region.” As it stands the locations of the 4 stroke centers currently in the UAE put those living in the more rural parts of the country in serious danger should they experience a stroke.

The DHA is launching a new network, known as the Angel’s Initiative, with the aim of better educating doctors in the region with regards to treating stroke victims via the Initiative’s website.



15 million people a year suffer a stroke worldwide, so even if you are not in the UAE, it is a good idea to know the signs and symptoms of a stroke so that you may be able to aid others that might

need help.

An acronym has been popularized that’s all about what to look for and do when a person has a stroke: FAST.

  • Facial drooping

  • Arm weakness

  • Speech Difficulties

  • Time

The first three letters in this acronym consist of visible signs that somebody may be having a stroke, and the last letter refers to the action to take if you believe someone is having one. With the latter, time not only refers to “time to call the local emergency telephone number”, but also, much like the acronym FAST itself, stresses the importance of getting treatment for the person quickly, since getting the patient treated within the first hour following a stroke can be the difference between good health and permanent disability, or even life and death.

Beyond this, there are additional symptoms of stroke that you should know:

  • Falling unconscious

  • Paralysis on one side of the body

  • Severe headache

  • Blurry or lost vision

  • Problems swallowing

  • Dizziness

  • Loss of coordination and balance

  • Confusion

  • Problems understanding others

Once again, if you or someone you know experience these symptoms, it’s best to seek medical assistance as soon as possible.



Strokes are often preventable. By focusing on controlling your stroke risk factors, you can greatly reduce your risk of having a stroke. Most of these factors can be controlled by living a generally healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen is a great start. This includes eating more vegetables and less red meat and processed foods, as well as consuming a healthy number of calories daily. Additional types of foods to avoid include those high in sodium, sugar, solid fats and refined grain. Since excess weight puts a strain on the circulatory system, it’s important to keep it off. Also, avoid alcohol and tobacco as much as possible, as they can raise your risk of stroke.

Other conditions can lead to stroke too. If you suffer from any of the following conditions, work with your doctor to monitor and control them in order to lower your risk of stroke:

  • Hypertension

  • Carotid artery disease

  • Atrial fibrillation

  • Circulation problems

  • High cholesterol

  • Diabetes

Other stroke risk factors that are out of our control include age, race, gender, family history, and having previously had a stroke, so check with your doctor to find out if your risk may be significantly higher due to these factors.

Finally, people affected by a stroke can suffer from a wide variety of temporary or permanent disabilities; the treatment for which can be quite pricey. That’s why it’s important for those at risk to possess a private medical insurance plan to cover any costs associated with treatment and therapies related to stroke. To find out more about a health insurance policy in the UAE that suits your specific needs, contact the helpful experts at UAE Medical Insurance. They can help you compare plans and prices from a variety of insurers that will provide excellent benefits for stroke sufferers.



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