While 49 people are murdered in South Africa every day (2014 – 2015 crime stats), a whopping 215 die of heart disease every single day
September is National Heart awareness month in South Africa, so we thought we would bring you some tips on the prevention of heart attacks, given that heart disease is prevalent in senior citizens.
The statistics are scary:
- South Africa has one of the highest rates of high blood pressure worldwide: 1 in 3 adults
- High blood pressure is a silent killer – up to 75% of people with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it
- Based on mortality date, approximately 250 people have a stroke per day
- Approximately 1 in 4 strokes are fatal
- 1 in 2 adults and a quarter of children in South Africa are overweight
- 215 people die from heart diseases every day in South Africa
80% of these premature deaths can be prevented by eating better, more exercise, and avoiding smoking. (Premature deaths refer to deaths before the age of 65 years)
Heart disease is not contagious, though there is a genetic component. The heart, however, reflects the treatment it receives from its host more than any other muscle in the body. That is, if it is treated well, with frequent exercise, a good diet and no smoking, it tends to remain healthy. Likewise, if subjected to a sedentary lifestyle, an unhealthy diet, excess alcohol and smoke, the risk of heart disease is greatly increased.
What can you do to prevent a heart attack or a stroke?
The simplest is to exercise. At least 30 minutes exercise per day is what is required. Simple brisk walking is sufficient, but it is important to raise your heart rate for it to be effective. A good pair of shoes is all it requires and walking is free. Many of the gyms offer discounts for their senior members and some offer reduced ‘off-peak’ memberships. And if you are not feeling up to joining a gym or hitting the road walking, then Ageless Grace maybe the answer for you. An Anti-ageing fitness programme that stimulates the mind-body connection, Ageless Grace is all done seated in a chair!
- Quit smoking. I know that is not so simple, but there are many techniques to assist, such as nicotine patches and ‘smoke-enders’ courses.
- Eat a healthy diet with the focus on fresh fruits and vegetables and limiting saturated fats, salt and foods with excess sugar. For more tips on this, read YEI’s article on healthy eating for seniors
- Regular check-ups. Heart disease is commonly called the “silent killer” because many people do not see the warning signs that lie in the increased blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, because they simply never get these checked out. These conditions don’t have any symptoms until they are far advanced. Regular visits to your general practitioner are advised, to keep a track of the numbers. Whilst many people believe high blood pressure is part of the natural ageing process, this is not true. Speak to your doctor about what your blood pressure should be.
- Reduce your intake of alcohol. Whilst moderate alcohol intake is benign, excess alcohol intake exacerbates the health conditions that contribute to heart disease, such as high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
- Minimize the stress in your life. Many of the risks of heart disease faced by seniors are compounded by stress. Healthy exercise is excellent for relieving stress and lowering your risk to heart disease, but if your lifestyle is particularly stressful you can investigate exercise forms known to reduce stress, such as yoga, or even learn to meditate.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Middle age spread is difficult to combat, but is recognized as a reliable measure of risk of heart disease. A reduction in weight of as little as 2 kg can improve blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
- Reduce your intake of painkillers – senior citizens generally take more painkillers than any other generation as they tend to get tired and feel body pains easily. Painkillers are among factors in increased heart attack amongst senior citizens. Ask your doctor which painkillers are most suitable for you to take.
Family History of heart attack, stroke or heart disease is an important contributor to the risk of heart disease, but where this genetic predisposition is present, it should result in an even more strict adherence to the regime outlined above.
For the month of September, the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) is offering free tests for blood pressure, blood glucose, blood cholesterol, weight and waist size in partnership with Dischem Pharmacies countrywide. It’s as simple as going to your closest branch, or even better phone and book an appointment.
This year for Heart Awareness Month, the HSFSA is launching its Smart Little Hearts campaign to raise funds and improve the lives of children with heart disease. You can donate towards heart disease in children by helping us refurbish paediatric cardiac clinic rooms. SMS the word “Smart” to 38502 to donate R10 to improve the lives of these Smart Little Hearts.
About the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) plays a leading role in the fight against preventable heart disease and stroke, with the aim of seeing fewer people in South Africa suffer premature deaths and disabilities. The HSFSA, established in 1980 is a non-governmental, non-profit organization which relies on external funding to sustain the work it carries out.
The HSFSA aims to reduce the cardiovascular disease (CVD) burden in South Africa and ultimately on the health care system of South Africa. Our mission is to empower people in South Africa to adopt healthy lifestyles, make healthy choices easier, seek appropriate care and encourage prevention.
Click here for the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa website.
Article by Hilary Henderson
Deputy Editor, You’ve Earned It
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