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HST Blog

Sep 27
Heart Awareness Month: Information on the heartbeat of society’s health

By Siyabonga Gema, HST Communications Officer

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September is earmarked as Heart Awareness Month, a health campaign that is driven by the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease and its risk factors in South Africa. Heart Awareness Month then culminates in World Heart Day on 29 September. During this month, people are encouraged to protect themselves from heart disease by following a healthy diet, keeping active, and being aware of risk factors such as smoking, drinking, taking drugs, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and stress.   

In South Africa, about 33 people die daily of a heart attack, while about 60 die daily from a stroke. For every woman who dies of a heart attack, two men die. About 37 people die per day from heart failure. More than half the deaths caused by chronic diseases, including heart disease, occur before the age of 65 years. The glaring number of deaths reflects the dire need for intervention from health providers as well as health-centred organisations in educating the public and sharing information. A concerning aspect of these statistics is the early age at which patients succumb to heart disease. Premature deaths caused by Cardiovascular disease (CVD) in people of working age (35-64 years) are expected to increase by 41% between 2000 and 2030, having massive economic implications. In an already dwindling economy, with high levels of inequality and poverty in many communities, these premature deaths cause massive income gaps.

 What are some risk factors?

1.      Socio-demographic risk factors

  • The risk of CVD is more prevalent in persons with a history of CVD in their families, where some family members have been affected by CVD in the past.
  • Men are known to be at a greater risk of developing CVD than women.
  • Those with low levels of education in middle-income countries like South Africa have a significantly higher risk of major CVD events compared to those with high incomes. People with low education may not have access to the right health care to detect and treat diseases, including CVD.

2.      Cigarette smoking

  • Smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and causes approximately one of every four deaths from CVD, according to the 2014 Surgeon General's Report on smoking and Health.
  • Toxins in cigarettes may also damage the blood vessels very quickly, but good news is that the damage is repaired quickly for most smokers who quit smoking.

3.      Obesity

  • Excess weight can lead to fatty material building up in the blood vessels, causing them to get damaged and clogged, which could lead to a heart attack.
  • If this happens in the arteries that carry blood to the brain, it could lead to a stroke or vascular dementia.
  • Obesity is associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, cancer, stroke, and hypertension.

These and many more risk factors are linked to one's behaviour and lifestyle, which is why it's critically important for those armed with credible information to share it and educate the public. The Heart Awareness campaign is just one of an array of ways that society can play a role in protecting people from heart-related diseases.

For more information on the Heart Awareness campaign, visit  


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