Beware the 'silent killers'

If you are a teacher who always feel stressed, who neglects your nutrition and fails to exercise, then now is the time to make some lifestyle changes as September is Heart Awareness Month.

Robert de Souza, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, said it would create awareness of the risk factors associated with heart disease and to remind everyone to have them tested for the ‘silent killers” high cholesterol and blood pressure.

The focus during Heart Awarenss Month will be on women and heart disease, healthy eating and nutrition.

Michelle Kearney, spokesperson for the foundation, said heart disease among women was growing at an alarming rate. It has become the number one killer of women in the United States and South Africa is not far behind.

‘Most women fear breast cancer, but don’t realise the imminent danger of heart disease,”she added.

Healthy eating and nutrition is key to the prevention of heart disease, but pose a huge challenge in South Africa.

A total of 17% of South African children between the ages of one and nine years old are overweight. At the same time 19% are stunted because of insufficient food intake.

Childhood obesity is also linked to unhealthy eating habits and inactivity.

To tackle these problems, the foundation established a children’s programme in 1997 which educates children from disadvantaged areas, their teachers and parents about heart health. Modules include nutrition, exercise, the effect of smoking, basic hygiene, HIV and rheumatic fever and are presented in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu.

National Stroke Week runs from September 18 to 24.

Heart facts

  • The five risk factors for heart disease are smoking, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, lack of exercise and obesity.
  • South Africa has the third highest incidence of cardiovascular disease in the word. The top five are Northern Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Finland, and the Republic of Ireland.
  • Cardiovascular disease kills more South Africans than cancer and motor vehicle accidents.
  • In South Africa there is a heart attack every 12 minutes—a quarter of which result in death.
  • One in three men and one in four women will have a heart condition before the age of 60.
  • One in 35 women is at risk of breast cancer—they should therefore be nine times more diligent about checking their heart health.
  • In South Africa 29% of males and 56% of females are either overweight or obese.

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