Heart disease is one of the leading health threats in South Africa, killing on average 210 people every day.
The whole of SA commemorates National Heart Awareness Month in September. On 29 September the rest of the world joins in with World Heart Day. Both of these are aimed at creating awareness around heart health.
Heart disease refers to a range of ailments related to the human heart, including heart attack, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, angina and many other heart-related infections and irregularities.
A heart attack is probably the most well-known heart condition. A heart attack refers to when the coronary artery, the artery that supplies blood to the heart muscle, is blocked, causing the heart muscles to die. Signs of a heart attack should not be taken lightly.
Signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:
Heart arrhythmia is when the heart has an abnormal heart rhythm: when the heart beats fast, slowly or at irregular intervals. Arrhythmias may prevent the heart from effectively pumping blood to the organs which can cause serious problems.
Coronary artery disease is a heart condition where one or more of the coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked. The most common warning signs of coronary artery disease is angina.
Angina is when the heart muscle does not get enough oxygen-rich blood and can result in a feeling of extreme pain and pressure in the chest.
Heart failure doesn’t refer to when the heart stops working, but rather that the heart isn’t pumping blood as effectively as it should. This means that blood moves through the body at a slower rate, so oxygen and nutrients don’t reach their destinations as promptly as they need to.
Observing or experiencing any of these symptoms or warning signs must be taken seriously and you must act immediately by contacting a medical professional or your heart doctor.
Many heart problems can be combatted and symptoms decreased by simply taking better care of the heart.
Smoking or using tobacco products can significantly increase the risk factor of contracting heart disease. To help you stop smoking, try behavioral therapy or nicotine replacement therapy like a patch or gum. Also, if you already suffer from heart disease, smoking can worsen your symptoms.
- Lack of exercise
A sedentary lifestyle can hurt your heart health. Raising your heartbeat through physical activity from as little as 30 minutes a day can significantly improve your cardiovascular fitness for a healthy heart. Regular exercise can also contribute to maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Poor diet
Not eating enough nutritious foods can increase your risk of heart disease. Rather opt for a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, omega 3 oils, vegetables and foods low in fat and high in fibre for a happy, healthy heart.
- Not getting enough sleep
Studies have shown that people who don’t get their recommended eight hours of quality sleep can significantly increase the chances of heart disease. So ensure that you draw up a sleep schedule to get enough winks.
- Missing regular health check-ups
Frequent visits to your general practitioner (GP) can pick up on early warning signs of heart disease. By simply checking your blood pressure or cholesterol levels, doctors can detect and help you fight future heart disease.
To help you pick up on early symptoms of heart disease, visit your GP today!