September is National Heart Awareness month in SA (and World Heart Day on the 29 September), and with 210 people dying from heart disease every day, it’s all the more reason why we should take this seriously.
In fact, after HIV/AIDS heart disease and strokes are the next biggest killer in South Africa . In fact, non-communicable diseases (lifestyle-related conditions), including heart disease, are estimated to account for 43% of the deaths of adults in our country.
The causes of heart disease in SA
There are multiple reasons for this, including a growing obesity epidemic, drinking habits, an inactive lifestyle, and a high number of smokers. And heart disease is no longer a disease associated with the elderly, as half of the people who die from heart attacks in this country are under the age of 65.
Heart disease also affects children – some children are born with heart defects, and others are affected by unhealthy lifestyle choices. One in five children smokes in SA, and a quarter of children are overweight. South Africa is the first African country to try and combat this obesity epidemic by introducing a sugar tax in April 2017.
High blood pressure in SA
A third of South Africans have high blood pressure , a condition which can narrow and harden the arteries, placing extra stress on your heart, and damaging your other organs as well. It is recommended that everyone has their blood pressure checked on a regular basis. This can be done at some pharmacies, the clinic, or at the doctor’s surgery.
High cholesterol levels
Cholesterol, a waxy substance, comes from two sources; your body and food. Your body naturally produces cholesterol, which is then circulated through the blood by the liver. According to the American Heart Association, a diet high in saturated and trans fats will result in a higher level of cholesterol produced.
Too much cholesterol can form a plaque between layers on artery walls, which makes it harder for your heart to circulate blood. This build up of plaque can break open and cause blood clots. When a clot blocks an artery to the brain, it can lead to a stroke and when an artery to the heart gets blocked, it can cause a heart attack.
More on statins
Statins are used to reduce high blood cholesterol levels and in doing so, are possibly preventing heart attacks and other diseases caused by narrowed arteries.
There are specific new guidelines on the patients for whom statins are prescribed. The new guidelines focus on an individual’s heart attack or stroke risk, and not just on general cholesterol levels. Your doctor will be able to tell you whether you fall into any of those categories.
Taking statins are, however not completely risk-free. In a small number of patients they can cause muscle pain and injury, sometimes liver problems, and increase in blood sugar levels and possible memory issues. It is essential that you discuss any of these side effects you may be experiencing with your doctor.
In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, MediHub cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.