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Health and Wellness

Know the warning signs – heart attacks

By January 11, 2014June 18th, 20213 Comments

Many people do not know when they are having a heart attack.  With heart disease being one of the top three killers in South Africa, knowing the warning signs for a heart attack might just save your life, or a person close to you.

Heart attack medical message background

One in three men and one in four women will have a heart condition before the age of 60. In South Africa, there is approximately one stroke every six minutes and five heart attacks every hour! There are 6.3 million people in this country living with high blood pressure (a direct cause of stroke and heart attacks).  Frightening statistics.  And did you know that the warning signs can be different for men and women?

YEI spoke to The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa (HSF) and verified that about 43% of women do not experience the most commonly known symptom of a heart attack, i.e. chest pain, but could suffer the following vague and confusing warning signs or symptoms:, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, back or jaw pain, dizziness, light-headedness or extreme fatigue.

A man will often have central chest discomfort or pain of a crushing and heavy nature – this could spread to the neck, shoulder or jaw. However, be aware that men can also experience the symptoms listed above.

YEI asked Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, CEO of the HSF what the lifestyle factors were that could cause heart disease and heart attacks.

“ 80% of cardiovascular disease can be prevented with a regime that includes good diet, regular exercise and not smoking.  Go and get tested, and understand your risk for this disease.  The major pharmacies offer heart health screening options at a nominal price”. The HSF also offers free information on healthy lifestyles, accessible via their website ( or the share call line, the Heart and Stroke Health Line (0860 1 432 78), where lifestyle advice can be obtained in English, Afrikaans, Zulu or Xhosa. The HSF also  has a variety of resources available to the public, like  the popular Cooking from the Heart recipe book, which is full of great tasting healthy recipes. For support after a heart attack or stroke, you are welcome to join the HSF Mended Hearts support group, which meets once a month in Cape Town, Durban and East London. This information can also be obtained from the HSF website”.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa recommends that every member of the public  has their heart health assessed.  Are you going to wait and become a statistic? Or are you going to do something about it?

What to do if you or your loved one experience any of the symptoms of a heart attack:
If you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, don’t wait more than five minutes to call emergency medical services (EMS). Every minute matters! It’s best to call EMS to get to the emergency room right away. Emergency medical staff can begin treatment when they arrive and they are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Once you have called emergency services you should chew one full aspirin, which has been shown to be effective in inhibiting platelet activity.

Emergency Numbers:

  • All medical emergencies 10177/112 (from a cellphone)
  • Netcare 082 911
  • ER24 084 124

Have you or a loved one ever had a heart attack? What was your experience like? Share your story either in the comment section below, or send us an email.

For further information on heart attacks or strokes, visit

heart and stroke foundation SA logo high res


  • Pensioner in quandary says:

    Can anyone recommend a Medical Aid which will not drain me dry? As a pensioner I cannot afford to pay more than R500 at the most monthly. I do not want to end up in a State hospital one day but if I cannot find a reasonably priced Medical Aid, this may be my lot (God forbid I ever do need to be hospitalised).

    • Marilynh says:

      Thank you for your query – YEI will do all that we can to investigate medical aids again. We have not had much luck to date, but will try another avenue.
      Kind regards
      Marilyn, YEI Editor

  • Francois Smit says:

    Hi Pensioner in quandary, you should have a look at Bonitas Boncap –

    It’s based on your income and has a small Savings, Dentist and Optometrist visits (and a pair of glasses) built into the plan, so it’s not just a hospital plan.

    Best Regards

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