Media Room

Know your numbers and control heart disease

Life Healthcare encourages you to go for regular health heart screenings

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) 210 people die from heart disease every day and it is the second biggest killer in South Africa, after HIV/AIDS. The disease that was once thought to be a disease of the elderly, heart disease now affects people of working age, with more than half of deaths occurring in people under the age of 65 years.

September is Heart Awareness Month, and to spread awareness of those staggering statistics, Life Healthcare, one of South Africa’s leading hospital groups, is encouraging you to get tested and know your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose numbers in order to prevent and control rising blood pressure and heart disease.

With 6.3 million people living with high blood pressure, South Africa has one of the highest rates of hypertension worldwide. Statistics show that about 130 heart attacks and 240 strokes occur daily in South Africa. This means that 10 people will suffer a stroke and five people will have a heart attack every hour.

Research indicates that our lifestyles are largely to blame for the significant increase in the number of people suffering with heart disease. There are multiple reasons for this, including a growing obesity epidemic, drinking habits, an inactive lifestyle, and a high number of smokers. Heart disease is also no longer a disease associated with the elderly, as half of people who die from heart attacks in this country are under the age of 65.

Heart disease also affects children. Some children are born with heart defects, while others are affected by unhealthy lifestyle choices. One in five children in SA smokes, and a quarter of children are overweight.

Most people know that chest pain and breathlessness can be signs of a heart condition, but there are other signs that one should look out for, for instance:

  • Discomfort spreading to the back, jaw, throat, or arm
  • Nausea, indigestion, or heartburn
  • Weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath
  • Fast or irregular heartbeats

Along with medication, there are lifestyle changes that can lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of health complications.

“Research has shown that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can decrease the incidence of heart disease, whereas diets high in saturated fats and simple sugars can increase the risk of heart disease. Paying attention to what you are eating is one of the major cornerstones of keeping your heart healthy,” says Dr Vinod Thomas, cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist at Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town.

“It is also important to have regular check-ups and tests that will give you insight into your risk for heart disease. Keeping track of your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, hemoglobin A1C (blood sugars) and inflammatory markers is beneficial in detecting heart disease, says Dr Thomas. Having the information empowers you to make a difference in the rest of your life's heart health. And once you know you have a heart condition, you can work with your doctor to control it.

Life Healthcare hospitals and specialists care for people who suffer from high blood pressure and heart conditions. We offer quality cardiac care through our facilities which includes 12 dedicated cardiac units based at 12 hospitals. Services at these dedicated cardiac units include cardiac catheterisation laboratories, cardiac theatres and medical and surgical ICUs. Visit