“Over the last 25 years‚ neither heart disease nor blood pressure levels have improved in South Africa. In fact‚ given that more people are overweight and have hypertension now than ever before‚ South Africa may even see an increase in heart disease as obesity and hypertension are known contributors to cardiovascular disease‚” said Prof Pamela Naidoo‚ head of the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA.
Concerned about the high incidence of heart disease among South Africans‚ the foundation has embarked on a drive to encourage lifestyle changes.
Key to addressing the burden of heart disease is early detection and diagnosis of cardio-vascular disease‚ treatment of hypertension‚ raised cholesterol and managing diabetes.
Naidoo warned that the damage inside blood vessels – which leads to heart disease – could start in childhood.
“Ten percent of boys and 22 percent of girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years are overweight. One South African study found girls who were obese between the ages of four and eight were 40 times more likely to be obese when they finished high school‚” said Naidoo.
“Numerous primary school children eat unhealthy foods on a daily basis and don’t participate in enough physical activity.”
Through its School Health Promotions Initiative‚ the foundation has been encouraging primary school children to exercise by handing out skipping ropes.
Dr Shanil Naidoo‚ medical director of pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim‚ said: “Many South Africans have uncontrolled or undiagnosed hypertension‚ diabetes and high cholesterol.
“A study in 2014 showed that 78 percent of South Africans aged 50 years and older had hypertension. Less than 40 percent of those surveyed were aware of their diagnosis and only 7 percent had their hypertension under control. These individuals are placing themselves at even higher risk of having heart attacks or strokes. While we cannot change our genetics or age‚ it is important to understand that we need to be disciplined about lifestyle choices‚ which include regular medical check-ups.”