The HSFSA said South Africa records 255 cardiovascular deaths per year. File image.
The HSFSA said South Africa records 255 cardiovascular deaths per year. File image.

The HSFSA urges South Africans to go for regular checks to avoid heart attacks

By Norman Cloete Time of article published Sep 25, 2021

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Johannesburg - It could start with chest pains that spread to the arm and back, next thing, you are flat on the ground and having a heart attack. This is the dire warning from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa (HSFSA), ahead of World Heart Day, on September 29.

The foundation said South Africa records 255 cardiovascular deaths per year, a figure which can be dramatically reduced.The good news is that around 80% of all heart diseases can be prevented. HSFA spokesperson, Perch Kapp said a single death from a preventable cardiovascular illness is one too many.

“We at the HSFSA are striving to reduce the number of deaths by educating the public about the causes, and preventative measures for cardiovascular disorders. We also do Health Risk Assessments to identify people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high glucose and raised Body Mass Index (BMI),” she said.

The foundation is encouraging South Africans to regularly check their blood pressure, pulse, cholesterol levels, glucose and BMI. Kapp said that high blood pressure was a silent killer and many South Africans walk around daily without knowing that their blood pressures are high.

“We need to change our outlook on our lifestyle. Remember this is for life and not just in the short term. Good habits start as a child and carry through to old age,” said Kapp.

Perch added that what we eat plays a huge role in not just heart health but overall health as well.

“We are what we eat”. What is included in our diets ? Do we eat a diet rich in fatty foods or eat wholesome foods rich in vitamins and nutrients? When changing eating habits what do we include and exclude? Stay away from ‘fad diets’. Don’t skip meals. Eat your meals from all the food groups but in the correct portions. Reduce the intake of saturated fats and stodgy foods like pasta, rice, potatoes and bread,” she said.

The foundation noted with dismay, that many South Africans has become ‘couch potatoes’ and needed to get more active.

“Children need to play more and hours of television, cellphones and computers need to be restricted. There are many forms of physical activities and not just merely going to the gym. It is recommended that we do physical activities for 150 minutes at least a week or easily put in 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week.

“Find fun activities to do with family and friends for example dancing, hiking, gardening, going for a brisk walk. Climb stairs instead of using a lift. Set goals and stick with them, remember these goals change as you go along. Try something new like cycling, skipping or skating. For the elderly armchair activities. As long as we are moving it’s a form of physical activity,” Kapp said.

She also noted that many South Africans skip health check-ups because they are afraid.

“People are scared of the unknown and the less they know, the less they worry about until it's too late to nip the problem in the bud. Some people have a don’t care attitude as well, or ‘It can't happen to me’ attitude. Education plays an important role here,” she said.

The World Heart Organisation lists heart disease as the number one killer globally per annum with 17.9 million deaths per year from cardiovascular diseases, with more than 75% of deaths occurring in low or medium income countries.

Pre-existing heart and metabolic conditions also increase the risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms, often leading to hospitalisation and may even cause death. Another scenario is that Covid-19 may affect the heart muscle and cause damage to it, leading to a heart attack and also long term heart problems.

Things to look out for that could cause heart disease:

You may feel a discomfort in your chest

Feelings of nausea, continuous indigestion or stomach pain. Females usually feel this more

Pain that spreads to the arm or into the back

You could feel lightheaded or dizzy

You feel exhausted easily ,and the least bit of exercise is exhausting

You may snore loudly and wake up gasping for breath. A condition called sleep apnoea needs to be diagnosed by doing a sleep study

Sweating excessively. This is a sure sign of a heart attack and a medical emergency.

Legs, feet and ankles are swollen. This is a sign that the heart is not pumping as it should be doing so you retaining fluids

Irregular heartbeat or ‘your heart beats in your throat’ or your pulse beats very fast.

“ Remember these are all warning signs and should be checked out as soon as possible, don’t put it off until tomorrow as tomorrow could be too late,” said Kapp. .

For more information check out the foundation’s website. HSFSA is also on Facebook, Twitter, Linked in and Instagram. You can also contact their Head Office on 021 422 9582 or any of our other branches nationally.

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