September is Heart Awareness Month and the Heart & Stroke Foundation South Africa has teamed up with Dischem Pharmacies to offer free testing to help prevent unnecessary deaths from heart disease.
“Millions of South Africans get dressed each day to go to work, checking the state of their hair and the way they look as they leave home. But sparing a thought for the state of your heart and arteries inside your body is much more important – and could save your life,” says The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA).
An estimated 210 South Africans die each day from heart attacks and the numbers are increasing. “Our population is becoming less active and our dietary habits are becoming increasingly unhealthy. Conditions that lead to heart disease like obesity, diabetes and hypertension are all on the rise,” says Professor Pamela Naidoo, the new CEO of the HSFSA.
Know your risk factors empowers you
Naidoo says knowing the risk factors for heart disease can inform people how they should act. The most important factors are blood pressure, blood glucose, blood cholesterol and obesity. In the month of September, which is Heart Awareness Month, the HSFSA will be offering free tests for these risk factors at all participating Dischem Pharmacies countrywide.
Busting myths around heart disease
There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding heart disease, she says. One of these is that people with healthy cholesterol levels will never have a heart attack. High blood pressure and a history of smoking could increase the risk for a heart attack.
Another misconception about heart attacks is that they all feel the same. But not everyone suffering from a heart attack feels sharp pain and numbness in one arm. Other symptoms are: difficulty breathing, sweating, a cold or clammy feeling and heart palpitations and exhaustion. Women often have different symptoms when having a heart attack. It is crucial that people are reminded of the importance of a healthy lifestyle, getting enough exercise, eating a balanced diet and not smoking.
High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is often called the silent killer because there are no warning signs when levels are high, causing damage to arteries, putting the heart under strain and paving the way for a heart attack or stroke. Having your blood pressure measured is the only way to know if it’s too high. Adults from the age of 20 should start having their blood pressure checked at least once a year, advises the HSFSA.
Smart little hearts
Many South Africans are also not aware of the fact that children too are affected by heart disease. This is why the Foundation during Heart Awareness Month this year will also raise awareness and funds via the Smart Little Hearts campaign.
The HSFSA aims to improve these children’s lives by raising funds to upgrade health facilities where children are treated. Seven public arteries care units in South Africa have been identified as being in desperate need of attention.
The HSFSA is hoping that more people will sit up and take note of the health of their – and their children’s hearts this September. “Getting free tests could be the most important thing many South Africans do in the next 30 days,” says Naidoo.
For every person who gets tested, MNI Lifestyle and Patient Focus will donate towards the HSFA smart little hearts campaign.
For more information visit www.heartfoundation.co.za