Heart Awareness Month

KZN Health MEC urges public to

  • Beware Of The Dangers Of Smoking
  • Lower Your Sugar And Salt Intake
  • Get Regularly Screened For Diseases
  • Exercise And Follow A Healthy Diet

18 September 2023

As the county commemorates Heart Awareness Month throughout September, KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane has urged the people of the province to be mindful of the many risk factors that leave them exposed to cardiovascular disease (a disease of the heart or blood vessels).

Speaking recently during an Isibhedlela Kubantu community outreach programme at Mpembeni (Ward 13) of uMhlathuze Local Municipality, MEC Simelane urged both men and women to stop smoking, and not to consume food that contains too much salt, sugar or fat; and to rather embrace good habits such as engaging in regular exercise and following a healthy diet.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, 80% of heart diseases that happen before the age of 65 years can be prevented by eating well, keeping active, and not smoking.

The Foundation notes that the lifestyles of most people living in South Africa are becoming unhealthier, with 2 in 5 South Africans suffering from high blood pressure, while 2 in 3 women are overweight.

The foundation is concerned that while a third of men are smokers, nearly half of the population is unfit, and most eat too much salt and not enough fruit and vegetables.

"As we commemorate Heart Awareness Month, we encourage regular screening and testing for disease such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Yes, these were previously regarded as 'diseases for older people', but all of that has changed due to modern lifestyles. These days, people in their 20s and 30s find themselves suffering from these disease.

"These are silent killers, threatening our well-being every day. They are the ticking time bombs of our health, waiting to explode in the form of a stroke or heart attack. We must be vigilant, take control, and protect ourselves from these potential complications.

"Let us eat healthy. When doctors say 'follow a healthy diet, they are not referring to expensive food, but they're encouraging us to plant and eat food that comes from the ground. Let's plant cabbages, potatoes, spinach, anything you can plant. If you have any of those vegetables, do not fry them, because all of that oil is not good for you; rather boil your food. If you've boiled your food, there are lots of nutrients to be gained from that. And cooking oil is not only bad, but it's expensive."

Consuming excessive sugar, especially in the form of added sugars and sugary beverages, is known to lead to higher blood sugar levels. Persistent high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels over time, increasing the risk of a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries) and plaque formation.

On the other hand, consuming excessive salt, particularly in the form of sodium, can lead to elevated blood pressure. High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart attacks and stroke. Excess sodium causes the body to retain water, increasing the volume of blood in the arteries and putting added strain on the heart.

High salt intake can also lead to arterial stiffness, making it more difficult for blood vessels to expand and contract as needed. This can increase the workload on the heart and raise the risk of heart disease.

MEC Simelane also took the opportunity to sound alarm bells over the dangers of tobacco, including the damage that it causes to the blood vessels; and how it increases the likelihood of blood clots, which can lead to a stroke (if it blocks an artery in the brain) or heart attack (if it blocks arteries leading to part of the heart muscle.

Other threats posed by smoking are increased blood pressure and reduced oxygen supply.

MEC Simelane said: "Quitting smoking at any point - for both men and women - can lead to significant health benefits and reduce the risk of heart complications. It's one of the most important steps one can take to improve cardiovascular health."

Those who suspect any abnormality with the heart are urged to visit their nearest clinic, where they will be screened, examined and referred accordingly, if necessary.

Issued by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health

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This page last edited on 19 September, 2023

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