Heart conditions, such as heart disease, are a growing problem not only in South Africa, but around the world.
What is heart disease?
Your heart is a muscle that gets energy from blood carrying oxygen and nutrients. Having a constant supply of blood keeps your heart working properly. Most people think of heart disease as one condition. But heart disease is a group of conditions affecting the structure and functions of the heart and has many root causes.
In most cases heart conditions are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, including a lack of exercise and a poor diet. Dr Guni Goolab, the principal officer of the Government Employees’ Medical Scheme said that South Africans of all income groups tend to exercise less and eat more junk food than they did 20 years ago.
“Many people overeat fatty foods and become obese. Others smoke and drink too much alcohol. This has all had negative implications for the health of the nation.”
Symptoms of heart disease
The symptoms for heart disease and heart attacks are not the same for men and women.
For men the symptoms are:
- Difficulty catching your breath after, for example, walking up a flight of stairs
- Discomfort or squeezing in your chest that last for 30 minutes to a few hours
- Unexplained pain in your upper torso, neck, and jaw
For women the symptoms are:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
How to prevent heart disease
Heart disease is preventable and manageable. Your best defense is controlling the risk factors that could lead to coronary artery disease.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a heart condition, there are treatments to help you manage your illness. Consider these heart-healthy steps:
- Do not smoke
- Be physically active
- Know and control your blood pressure
- Eat a healthy diet that is lower in fat, especially saturated and trans fat
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Manage your diabetes
- Limit alcohol use
- Reduce stress
- Visit your doctor/clinic regularly and follow your doctor’s advice.
Source: Heart&Stroke Foundation