Tuesday, 28 January, 2020
Fitness and health

Fitness and health



SEPTEMBER IS HEART AWARENESS Month – an entire month dedicated to creating awareness and preventing heart disease in South Africans. The Heart and Stroke Foundation SA, a non-governmental organisation, is calling everyone to have their cholesterol and blood pressure checked, often termed ‘silent killers’ because there are no visible symptoms when levels are raised.


Currently about 195 South Africans – or 13 minibus loads – die each day from heart disease. Of these, heart attacks are responsible for about 33 deaths per day and are twice as prevalent among men as in women, while about 60 people die a day due to strokes and about 37 due to heart failure.


Heart Attacks


When arteries become too narrow (because of atherosclerosis – build-up of fatty material on the inside of artery walls) or a clot forms, it restricts blood flow to the heart. When the blood supply to the heart or part of the heart is cut off, the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen and gets damaged. This is a heart attack and the severity of the attack depends on the extent of the damage to the heart muscle.



Coronary artery disease (disease of the arteries leading to the heart) is the most common cause of heart attacks. Although a heart attack is often a sudden and dramatic event, it is the result of a gradual process over many years. The build-up of fatty deposits in the walls of the arteries leading to the heart (this process is known as atherosclerosis) causes gradual narrowing of these arteries and can cause a total blockage of the artery and the blood flow to the heart muscle, causing a heart attack.

Atherosclerosis is caused or aggravated by unhealthy eating habits, smoking, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes.



A heart attack is diagnosed through the symptoms experienced (see below) as well as by the results of blood tests and an ECG (electrocardiogram). The blood tests indicate levels of enzymes that are released into the bloodstream when the heart muscle is damaged and the ECG traces the electrical pattern of the heartbeat and can indicate areas of damage. These results determine the severity of the attack and degree of damage.


1 in 3 men and 1 in 4 women will have a heart condition before the age of 60.


Many will not admit that they are in trouble or acknowledge that the symptoms they experience are serious. Recognising the warning signs and seeking medical treatment could save your life!


Watch out for the following, but be aware that symptoms do vary from person to person:

1.Heavy pressure, tightness, crushing pain or unusual discomfort in the centre of the chest.

This may:

>Feel like indigestion.

>Spread to shoulders, arms, neck or jaw.

>Lasts for more than 15 minutes.

2.Sweating, sickness, faintness or shortness of breath may be experienced

3.There may be a rapid, weak pulse

4.Sharp stabbing pain in the left side of the chest is usually NOT heart pain.





1.General food preparation tips

>Prepare food with a limited amount of vegetable oil e.g. sunflower, canola, grapeseed or olive oil

>Remove visible fat from meat and skin from poultry before cooking

>Grill, roast, steam or poach rather than fry foods

>Prepare foods with restricted sodium (salt) content, using fresh herbs, spices or lemon juice instead.


2.Suggestions for low salt cooking

>Add sliced lemon or lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, chutney, or Tabasco sauce as a salt substitute to meats, chicken and fish

>Use garlic, ginger, chilli, dry mustard, pepper, onions, mushrooms or tomatoes to add flavour to meat

>Add a little wine or fruit juice to casseroles and stews. The alcohol in the wine will evaporate during cooking but the flavour remains

>Use fresh herbs such as basil, marjoram, origanum, sage and thyme

>Use spices such as curry, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin and nutmeg.







The symptoms that women experience are markedly different from those experienced by men. For women, the typical heart attack symptoms tend not to be the classic “tightness”, discomfort or pain in the chest. Instead, they experience a wide range of sensations, including:


>An uneasy feeling in the chest.

>Abdominal pain.

>A fluttering heartbeat.

>Shortness of breath.



>Dizziness and/or fainting.

>Swollen feet.


The problem is, however, that these symptoms are easily dismissed as something innocuous as a stomach bug or hunger, as the warning signs of a heart attack are less evident in women. Approximately 35% of heart attacks in women are believed to go unnoticed or unreported. Also, because of increased age, women are more likely to also have other diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.



To prevent the development of obesity and diseases such as heart disease and diabetes later in life, it is important to learn to eat healthy and get into a routine of regular physical activity.



Heart disease is aggravated by poor lifestyle habits. Nothing is guaranteed, but preventative measures can be implemented to reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack:


>Do not smoke

>Reduce high blood cholesterol

>Control high blood pressure

>Eat a healthy balanced diet low in saturated fat

>Exercise regularly

>Maintain a healthy body weight.

>Reduce stress.


It is important for family, friends and close colleagues to know if you have heart disease and what to do if a heart attack occurs. Everyone can benefit from learning more about the warning signs of heart disease and how to do CPR.




The Heart Mark is a guideline and incentive for shoppers to instantly identify healthy products on the shelf. Each product that carries the Heart Mark has been approved as part of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa eating plan.


1.These products are:

>Lower in cholesterol

>Lower in saturated fat

>Lower in salt

>High in fibre (where applicable)


2.The Heart Mark logo confirms:

>Stringent nutritional standards

>Independent testing by a reputable laboratory

>The healthier alternative in a category.

by The Heart & Stroke Foundation

For a copy of the original article published in SUTRA Magazine click on the DOWNLOAD ATTACHMENT link below.





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