World Heart Day is marked this week on Friday September 29. Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA, provides insight into heart disease, the statistics, prevention and that which makes people a high risk.
“Heart disease and strokes make up 18% of all non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in SA. The death statistics indicate that 225 individuals die every day from heart disease.
“This is an alarming statistic and is line with the global death rate where the majority of the 18 million people that die from CVD, live in low and middle-income countries,” Professor Naidoo reveals.
But, The Heart and Stroke Foundation SA wishes to amplify that heart disease is preventable.
“Seventy to 80% of heart disease can be prevented by adopting simple but effective behaviour changes and adopting healthier day-to-day health habits,” she says.
Heart disease being a leading cause of death among South Africans, she reveals are due to a combination of factors, but it mostly boils down to, she says, “a lack of self-management and lack of using health services”.
A starting point, says Professor Naidoo, is for people to be knowledgeable on the risks of heart disease. “What we know is that there are consistent and established risk factors for heart disease.”
“Men and women after the age of 40 years are particularly at risk due to hormonal changes. Women, for example, are very vulnerable during the pre-, meno, and post-menopausal phases of their lives,” she names the risk factors brought on by aging.
Furthermore, other risk factors which greatly increase your risk she says, includes sex, family history of CVD, combined with unhealthy behaviours such as poor nutrition, raised cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, and hypertension.
“Basic health screening is a good preventive measure,” she adds.
Bolander asked the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness, about the availability of health services in relation to heart health.
Megan Davids, spokesperson for the department says: “Due to the prevalence of heart disease, the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness prioritises heart health as a crucial aspect of public health.”
Ms Davids reiterates Professor Naidoo’s point on heart diseases being preventable. “Most heart diseases can be prevented by addressing behavioural risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and obesity, and physical inactivity.”
The department has designed a programme for this purpose, she explains. “Through our dynamic healthy lifestyle-promoting initiative, Western Cape on Wellness (WOW!) put a focus on promoting such behaviour changes and actions for the improvement of health and wellbeing.
“The WoW! programme is supported by a partnership network and our trained Wellness Champions of approximately 10-30 team members, who arrange and coordinate activities to promote physical activity, healthy eating, healthy choices and more,” she adds.
Reassuringly, Professor Naidoo says it’s never too late to make these healthy lifestyle changes. “For example, if you stop smoking, you can cut your chances of heart disease by at least half within the first 6 months.”
Becoming physically active, stop smoking (including vaping), and reducing their alcohol intake are other practical ways of preventing heart disease.
Professor Naidoo further advises people to buy products with the Heart Mark on, to lower their salt and sugar intake and limit bad fats in their diets. “Increased salt intake is directly linked to raised blood pressure which is very dangerous,” she warns.