Getting to the heart of the matter …

September is Heart Awareness Month, and Stellenbosch University (SU) in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa are running an educational campaign on heart health for the month of the September, culminating with the idea that everyone wears red on Friday September 28 in Stellenbosch.

The Theme for 2018 World Heart day is #MyHeartYourHeart. The concept is that “I care enough about your heart to tell you about what you can do to protect your heart”.

A total of 225 South Africans die of heart disease every day, and 45% of South African adults have high blood pressure, yet 80% of all heart disease and strokes can be prevented with simple interventions

The World Heart Federation is making a plea on World Heart Day, that people promise to eat more healthily, to get more active, to say no to smoking. To do what is BESST for your heart:

B: Blood pressure check

E: Exercise

S: Salt, reduce salt intake

S: Stop smoking

T: Talk about risk factors, spread the message.

Every person should have an annual blood pressure check done by a healthcare professional. If it is elevated it should be repeated, if it remains elevated lifestyle measures should be implemented. If it remains elevated treatment should be started and continued for life.

Inactivity is a risk factor for heart disease separate from any other risk factor and is easy to correct.

Reduce sitting time, increase activity in day to day life, like using the stairs instead of the lift, and start to exercise, doing 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily. Walking is a good option.

If the exercise is being used to treat something, e.g. to lose weight, control diabetes or blood pressure then one hour daily is required. Excess salt can increase the blood pressure which is a risk for heart disease.

Do not add salt to food while cooking, rather use herbs for flavour, if salt is needed add it at the table you will end up using less salt this way; packaged meals and tinned food are high in salt. Also increase your intake of foods high in potassium (like fruit).

Next to inactivity, smoking is the greatest hazard to your heart as well as other organs, it also has an impact on those around you. Reduce your smoking and quit, speak to your doctor about a prescription to help you quit. Smoking Hookah is just as dangerous as cigarettes, don’t be fooled.

So now you know what is BESST, tell your parents, your siblings, your children, your colleagues and peers, spread the message, #MyHeartYourHeart, I care enough about you to tell you.

Join US in spreading the message about heart health and show your support by wearing red on Friday September 28, and help paint Stellenbosch red.

Dr Jo-Anne Kirby, MBChB MSc Sports Med, is the campaign coordinator, and is with Campus Health Service at Stellenbosch University.