What you need to know about heart disease

â??With September being National Heart Awareness Month, itâ??s time for South Africans to get smart about the health of their hearts,â? says Mark Arnold, principal officer of Resolution Health Medical Scheme (Resolution Health).

According to Arnold, cardiovascular diseases, such as stable angina (chest pain), were the top conditions for which members claimed over the past year. â??It is concerning how we as South Africans take our health for granted and how careless individuals can be about their personal wellbeing especially with heart disease which is usually aggravated by or linked to lifestyle. â??

What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to any disease of the heart and blood vessels. CVDs such as hypertension and coronary artery disease may predispose a person to heart attacks, heart failure and strokes.

According to Dr Jacques Snyman, clinical adviser for Resolution Health Medical Scheme, â??The majority of heart disease and strokes can be prevented by making certain lifestyle choices such as exercising, eating a healthy diet and nipping the smoking habit in the â??buttâ??.â?

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Is there enough hype about hypertension?

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition in which the arteries have persistently elevated blood pressure.

â??Blood pressure is a measurement of the â??forceâ?? of the blood pumped by the heart against a personâ??s artery walls. High blood pressure is when this force is strong enough to cause damage to blood vessels and organs and may lead to several illnesses such as kidney failure, heart failure, aneurysm, stroke or heart attack,â? explains Dr Snyman.

As many as one in three people in South Africa are currently living with high blood pressure, which is one of the leading causes of heart disease and strokes in the world. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, almost half of those affected donâ??t even know they have hypertension, which is why the disease has been dubbed the â??silent killer.â??

â??It is critical to go for regular blood pressure checks, especially if you are an older individual or if you have any history of high blood pressure,â? says Dr Snyman.

What is coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease develops when the coronary arteries (the major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients) become blocked by a build-up of inflammatory fatty deposits of cholesterol called plaque in the inside of the blood vessel wall. This build-up is known as atherosclerosis and the arteries become narrowed, restricting the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart and other vital organs such as the brain and kidneys.

â??This is a very dangerous medical condition because if the plaque ruptures, it causes an instant clot inside the artery, cutting blood supply to heart muscle instantaneously which results in a heart attack,â? warns Dr Snyman.

Read on for ways to prevent heart disease…

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.