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The bad news first: premature deaths caused by cardiovascular disease (or CVD) in people aged 35 to 64 years are expected to increase by 41% between 2000 and 2030 according the Heart and Stoke Foundation of South Africa (HSFSA).
On any given day there are 130 recorded heart attacks and 240 strokes between Cape Agulhas and Musina. And here’s the worst news, it’s us men who are having the most chest clutching events. For every woman that dies of a heart attack, two men die. So it’s safe to say that it’s something that should be on your radar. But don’t save your cholestrol check for your 50s: between the ages of 30 and 49, for example, your risk of suffering from heart disease goes up eleven-fold. This gives us all a key window in which to act in order to ensure that our heart will still be beating in good health for decades to come. Plus, since it’s responsible for pumping blood around your body, the short-term benefits of keeping it in shape span everything from base fitness levels to peak sexual performance.
The major risk factors haven’t changed. The World Heart Federation reports that 80% of CVD is preventable by following a healthy lifestyle. Smoking remains the biggest preventable cause of heart disease, closely followed by obesity, alcohol consumption and high cholesterol. Your prevention tactics also need to be consistent: it’s about eating well and exercising regularly, says Ayesha Seedat, registered dietician at HSFSA.
But there’s another reason why we should all be vigilant right now. As long as the economy remains unstable, it’s Defcon-1 for your cardiovascular system. Numerous studies have linked times of recession with a deadly toll for our heart health. One, published in The Lancet, shows that a 3% rise in unemployment rates coincides with a 2.7% rise in the number of heart attacks in men aged between 30 and 44.
Key to your defence is psychological resilience. This is about feeling in control of your life; it’s important for keeping your blood pressure low. Be decisive instead of agonising over your choices. Minimise financial risk. Break down challenges into smaller goals rather than letting yourself become overwhelmed by problems. These measures will ensure that your head rules (and protects) your heart.
But there are also a number of other quick fixes you can deploy to guard your health – here’s how to avoid the broken hearts club.
– Trevor Thieme