Let's embrace healthier lifestyles, reduce the risk factors of cardio-vascular diseases such as stroke, rather than blaming them on "witchcraft" says KZN Health HoD

31 October 2022

Administrative Head of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health Dr Sandile Tshabalala has urged society to move away from attributing instances of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke to "witchcraft", but rather embrace a more active and healthier lifestyle in order to reduce risk factors.

Dr Tshabalala was speaking at Amaoti, north of Durban, on Friday (28 October 2022), during the official handover of two mobile clinic units worth R1,5 million from SASOL SA to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health.

According to recent research by academics at the University of South Africa and the University of Johannesburg, stroke is among the top 10 leading causes of disability in SA, and accounts for nearly 25 000 deaths annually.

Writing in the South African Medical Journal, Edmore Ranganai and Lyness Matizirofa argue that rise in the incidence of stroke is due to "the epidemiological transition as a result of socio-demographic and lifestyle changes, which is leading to an increase in non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, obesity and hypertension) which, in turn, may result in an upswing of stroke cases."

Stroke can be described as a brain attack, which occurs when blood flow in a region of the brain is obstructed by a blockage within a blood vessel (ischemic stroke); or by a ruptured blood vessel (haemorrhagic stroke).

Strokes can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.

As South Africa observes World Stroke Week, which runs from 28 October to 3 November, Dr Tshabalala says: "It's vital for people to get screened and tested for ailments so that they know where they stand as far as their own health and risk factors are concerned. "We also need to move away from a mindset that seeks to attribute all that is bad to witchcraft without interrogating it; and instead face up to the reality that there are scientific explanations for diseases such as stroke, as well as the fact that there is a lot that we can do as individuals to prevent them.

"Exercising or taking a walk for about 30 minutes at least three times a week can assist greatly to open up your blood vessels, and improve blood flow."

"On the other hand, if you smoke, you're actually depositing tar into your vessels, which makes them thinner, preventing blood from flowing freely."

Dr Tshabalala emphasises that what an individual eats and drinks may also determine whether or not they're placing themselves at risk of suffering a stroke.

"Consuming too much sugar, salt or fat is not good for our bodies. Regularly drinking too much alcohol also raises your risk of a stroke."

"We need to go back to basics. Before there was sugar, our fore-fathers used to boil food. The spices that many people like so much nowadays, do not go beyond the mouth. We must get to a point where we eat food, not because it tastes good, but with a view to ensure that we give our bodies the nutrients that they need."

What are the symptoms and signs of Stroke?

Stroke warning signs may come on suddenly or come and go over time. Stroke symptoms include numbness or weakness on one side of the body, confusion, vision problems, dizziness, loss of balance, difficulty walking, severe headache, and difficulty speaking or understanding speech. Serious damage to brain tissue can occur even if stroke symptoms seem mild.

Prompt medical treatment can reduce the risk for severe complications and improve stroke recovery.


Issued by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health

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This page last edited on 01 November, 2022

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