The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) is embracing the World Heart Federation theme My Heart, Your Heart. But are going a mile further by extending the theme to: My heart, your heart and hearts of all South Africans.
Our theme and sub-themes for Heart Awareness Month (HAM) are also aligned to the NCD Alliance’s #EnoughNCDscampaign which focuses on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and other non-communicable disease prevention, health promotion, advocacy and related public health policies.
Shocking facts about CVD – heart disease and stroke
CVD is the world’s number one killer, claiming nearly 17,7 million lives every year. Although the incidence of heart disease has steadily declined in high-income countries, the burden on middle and low-income countries has never been greater.
In South Africa, the death rate for heart disease and stroke follows HIV and AIDS. Of the 43% of all deaths in South Africa which is because of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), 18% is due to CVD. In South Africa 1 in every 5 deaths are caused by CVD, totalling nearly 82 000 lives lost annually.
Selected health behaviours are known to increase the risk for CVD. It is important to mitigate this risk by having better nutrition, increasing physical activity, reducing tobacco smoking and vaping, and reducing excessive alcohol consumption.
If one has a genetic predisposition for heart disease or stroke, one’s risk profile increases exponentially they engage in risky health behaviours and have co-morbid conditions, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high levels of “bad” cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, etc.
Hypertension, also described as the ‘silent killer’ is related to 13% of all deaths globally and is prevalent in 1 in 3 adults in South Africa. Although this is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, 50% of individuals do not know that they are hypertensive.
Excess salt intake is directly associated with raised blood pressure which may eventually lead to hypertension. Salt reduction is the simplest and most cost-effective way to help prevent circulatory health conditions.
We will highlight five simple changes that help to achieve the global recommended limit of 5 grams of salt per person per day.
No tobacco and electronic smoking
We support the proposed ban on public use of electronic smoking devices, smoking tobacco or any other form of smoking. As smoking increases the risk for having a heart attack.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high levels of cholesterol can develop fatty deposits and increase the risk of heart disease. It is important to know the difference between LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol)
Acute coronary syndrome (ACS)
Sudden cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. The condition usually results from an electrical disturbance in the heart that disrupts its pumping action, stopping blood flow to the body. Having an automatic external defibrillator (AED) and knowing how to use it can save your life.
What does HSFSA have planned for HAM?
During HAM, the HSFSA will be focusing on four core messages, dedicating a week to each message and reinforcing these messages during the fourth week.
This year, the weekly messages are based on reducing poor health habits which increase the risk for heart disease, such as tobacco smoking, lack of exercise, and the use of excessive salt in our diets. There will also be a focus on hypertension, cholesterol, and sudden cardiac arrest.
Finally, we look forward to the culmination of HAM on World Heart Day (WHD), on 29th September, when we will invite all media to cover various WHD activities around the country, including the lighting up in red of major landmarks.
School’s Health Promotion Initiative (SHPI)
The Schools Health Promotions Initiative focuses on educating primary school children on the importance of taking care of their hearts and brains from a young age by eating smart, breathing fresh air by avoiding tobacco smoke, and being physically active.
One of the main drivers will be to get children active. This will be highlighted by handing out free skipping ropes and getting the HSFSA mascot, Hearty, to encourage them to use the skipping ropes daily.
The presentation delivered to the school children focuses on easy and effective ways to take care of your heart. Finally, the HSFSA will showcase a performance from a professional rope-skipper to captivate the learners with extraordinary tricks and skills using a skipping rope. Thus making moving cooler and a more aspirational thing to do.
In addition to this, the staff at these selected schools in South Africa will have health risk assessments conducted by our health promotion officers and nursing practitioners to ensure that we have healthy school environments in all aspects.
Caring for adult hearts
Less than 50% of South Africa adults living with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition. The prevalence of hypertension is said to be around 45% among adults. Similarly, many people who are pre-diabetic and have raised cholesterol are unaware, and as a result do not improve their lifestyles nor gain access to medication.
Blood pressure should be checked at least once annually for all adults, and blood glucose annually when overweight. Many people are unaware of the dangers of hypertension, prefer to postpone getting a medical check or, simply cannot afford to get tested.
Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the HSFSA, urges all South Africans to have a health risk assessment (which includes checking their blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol levels, iron levels and weight) done for free during HAM at all Dis-chem Pharmacies.
Prof Naidoo expresses her gratitude to Dis-chem Pharmacies for partnering with the HSFSA to raise awareness of CVD and to mobilise communities to know their diagnosis and get treatment when necessary.
Keep an eye out for our WHD activities in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, and Port Elizabeth! You are welcome to inquire about broadcasting from any one of the events we have lined up on World Heart Day!
For updates on our WHD activities please on our website for regular updates www.heartfoundation.co.za or call 021 422 1586.