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Health checks you should do regularly

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) encourages South Africans to get tested so you know your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose numbers and keep a close watch on your weight to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Blood pressure

South Africa has one of the highest incidences of high blood pressure worldwide. In 2017, 42–54% of South Africans were said to have hypertension, and the number is expected to increase.

The ideal numbers
The ideal blood pressure reading is under 120/80mmHg. Blood pressure higher than 140/90mmHg is classified as high blood pressure or hypertension while blood pressure over 130/85mmHg is called pre-hypertension.

Improve your blood pressure
Lifestyle changes to control blood pressure include reducing salt intake, eating more fruit, vegetables and dairy, increasing physical activity, weight loss and stopping smoking.


With a family history of high cholesterol, levels can be two to four times higher than normal. If these individuals don’t make dietary changes and start medical treatment, they will suffer heart disease at a very early age. In contrast, slightly elevated cholesterol in a person who is otherwise fit and healthy will have a marginal and often insignificant impact.

The ideal numbers
If tests measure elevated total cholesterol (greater than 5mmol/L), further tests are needed.

Improve your cholesterol levels
Lifestyle changes to improve cholesterol levels include changing the amount and types of fats in the diet, reducing sugary and refined starches, increasing activity, weight loss and smoking cessation.

Blood glucose

Abnormally elevated blood glucose can be a sign of insulin resistance/glucose intolerance or diabetes. In some cases, central obesity, raised blood glucose, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels are present in the same person. This is a condition known as metabolic syndrome and it’s an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease. 

The ideal numbers
An ideal value is less than 8mmol/L. Caution should be taken to interpret this if done within an hour after a very starchy or sugary meal. A level above 11mmol/L is indicative of diabetes. A fasting blood glucose test is typically done in the morning after an overnight fast. This provides a clearer picture and an ideal value should be less than 6mmol/L. A value between 6 and 7mmol/L can point to glucose intolerance.

Improve your cholesterol levels
Treatment for insulin resistance may require medication in addition to lifestyle and dietary changes.

Weight status

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity rates are rapidly increasing in the African region, as in most parts of the world. Central weight distribution is a greater risk factor for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome than general obesity, therefore waist circumference is a useful diagnostic tool.

The ideal numbers
The ideal BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 indicates that you’re overweight, and if it’s 30 and over you’re obese. Waist circumference measurements of greater than 80cm and 94cm identify overweight females and males respectively.

Reduce your weight
Regular exercise and a balanced diet are key, and it is important to make lifestyle changes that will support good health.

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a healthcare professional. E&OE. Life Healthcare Group Ltd does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by the reader as a result of the information provided.