BY Pharma Dynamics
The news of a heart attack claiming the life of cricket legend, Shane Warne at only 52 years of age has sent shockwaves across the world. His sudden passing has sparked an important conversation around men’s habits and their impact on cardiovascular health.
Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics, SA’s largest provider of cardiovascular medication, says heart attacks are no longer just linked to the aged. Now, one in five heart attack patients are younger than 40.
“What many don’t realise is that there are usually no signs or symptoms of high blood pressure (hypertension) or high cholesterol, yet both increase your risk of a heart attack and stroke. That’s why it is so important to have these checked by your GP on a regular basis, especially if you’re 40 and older.”
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in South Africa after HIV/AIDS where every hour five people suffer a heart attack.
Jennings says heart disease is preventable. “The earlier you start to look after your health, the better for your heart. The first place to start is to recognise the risk factors for heart disease.”
Smoking, which damages blood vessels and contributes to heart disease. In fact, smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke than non-smokers. Quitting at any age is beneficial, but the earlier the better.
Unhealthy eating leads to excess weight gain and obesity, which both cause cardiovascular disease. It also raises LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which blocks the walls of blood vessels and increases blood pressure.
Excessive salt intake leads to water retention. This increases blood pressure and puts strain on blood vessels, the heart and other organs. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends no more than 5g per person of salt per day. To reduce your salt consumption, try limit the amount of processed food in your diet and cut back on the amount of salt you add to your food. For heart-healthy recipes that are low in salt, make cookingfromtheheart.co.za/ your go-to.
Physical inactivity heightens your risk of developing high blood pressure by 30-50%, as well as other diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes. Just 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise (brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming) three to four times a week will help to keep your waistline in check.
Heavy drinking can also lead to hypertension, heart failure as it contributes to cardiomyopathy – a disorder that impairs the heart muscle.
Stress, especially long-term stress increases cortisol (stress hormone) levels, which raises blood cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure – all common risk factors for heart disease. Chronic stress could also trigger unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking, smoking and other substance abuse, which are all bad for your heart.
Jennings says making small changes to your diet by eating more fruit, vegetables and wholegrains and reducing salt consumption is a much safer way to lose weight, than resorting to extreme dieting.
Proactive, preventative care is the best approach to reduce heart attack deaths among middle aged men.
“We urge men 40 years and older to have regular heart checks done. This will inform your doctor about what lifestyle changes you need to make and whether you will benefit from medicines to lower your blood pressure and/or cholesterol levels. Your doctor will also test for diabetes, which is another causal factor of heart disease and needs to be managed carefully,” says Jennings.
Warning signs of a heart attack in men include chest pain and/or discomfort, which can spread to the arms, neck, jaw or back. Dizziness or light-headedness, feeling nauseas, indigestion, unexplained sweating or shortness of breath are also critical signs.
If you experience any of these symptoms, call:
National ambulance response – 10177
Private emergency response, Netcare911 – 082 911
National medical emergency response, ER24 – 084 124