World Heart Day - 29 September


Every year on 29 September, we celebrate World Heart Day. This is a global initiative by the World Heart Federation to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle to keep your heart healthy.

What is heart disease?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), or heart disease, is a general term for conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels. It's usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries (atherosclerosis) and an increased risk of blood clots.

Even during this time of COVID-19, cardiovascular disease remains the world's number one killer, causing around 18 million deaths a year. In South Africa, 215 people die from heart disease every day. In 2018, South Africa reached a watershed moment, with mortality rates from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) overtaking those of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined. And, of all the NCDs, cardiovascular disease was highlighted as the highest contributor to death in SA.

Many factors and other medical conditions can contribute to cardiovascular disease, including smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

The Facts about Women and Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. But did you know that in South Africa, the proportion of CVD related deaths in women aged 35-59 years is 1.5 times more likely than that of women in the United States? For many years the myth that 'heart disease is a risk for men' has been circulated. Women's heart health has been somewhat overlooked for many years. The American Heart Association is one of the global organisations driving awareness around this. In February each year the organization runs the #GoRedforWomen campaign to raise awareness for CVD in women. You can read more here - share this with friends, family and loved ones to help raise awareness today!

Top tips to prevent heart disease

The good news is that you can prevent and fight heart disease. An important preventive measure to lower risk of cardiovascular disease is managing health behaviors and risk factors. But how do you know which risk factors you have? Regular screening tests once to twice yearly (depending on your risk factors) is an excellent way to protect your heart. Annual screening tests include:

  • Having your blood pressure taken
  • Measuring your cholesterol and blood glucose levels
  • Reviewing your BMI score and waist circumference

You can access a Health Check all year round, book yours today!

Eat well and drink wisely

Around 80% of heart disease and strokes can be prevented with a simple lifestyle change. According to cardiologist Dr David Jankelow, a healthy lifestyle is as important as medicine when it comes to taking care of your heart.

Below are a few lifestyle changes you can make to help keep your heart strong and healthy.

Focus on eating a healthy balanced diet to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. This includes:

  • Increasing your intake of clean water, unsweetened tea or coffee
  • Reducing your portion sizes, especially when it comes to fatty, starchy, high salt and sugary food. Instead choose healthy fats (e.g. avocado and fatty fish) and plant based oils (e.g. canola and olive oil)
  • Replacing refined cereals with high-fibre alternatives such as brown rice, oats, wholegrain cereals and legumes
  • Choosing lean and fresh protein such as skinless chicken and fish
  • Drinking alcohol only in moderation.

Get active

Studies show that regular exercise improves factors linked to heart health, resulting in lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol levels, and better blood sugar regulation. Exercise also burns calories, which can help you maintain or reach a healthy weight. Here are some tips to help you get started, depending on whether you enjoy moderate or high intensity exercise:

  • Do 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week, such as brisk walking, cycling slowly or playing doubles tennis.
  • Try 75 minutes of high intensity exercise every week, like cycling fast, boxing or jogging.

Say no to smoking

Smoking can contribute greatly to many health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smoking negatively impacts on your heart health as it hardens the blood vessels which can cause damage which may lead to increased risk of stroke and can result in raised blood pressure. It can also increase your risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system. Stub out that cigarette and within two years, you can substantially reduce your risk of coronary heart disease and other health conditions.

Discovery encourages members to connect with others

You can find support online. On MyHeartDiseaseTeam, you're part of a community of others living with heart disease who know what you're going through. Get the support you need from others with your condition, and gain practical advice and insights on optimising your heart health. Join the MyHeartDiseaseTeam today!

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