Michelle Loewenstein
3 minute read
20 Sep 2013
6:00 am

Straight from the heart

Michelle Loewenstein

When people envision a heart attack victim, it's usually an older male that comes to mind. However, this perception is far from accurate.

Picture: Supplied.

Heart disease and its related conditions can affect anyone. According to Dr Anchen Laubscher, medical director of the Netcare Hospital Division: “One in three men and one in four women will have a heart condition of one kind or another by the time they reach the age of 60. This avoidable health crisis will increasingly strain our healthcare system unless individuals take ownership of their health and lifestyle choices.”

Clicks Pharmacist, Waheed Abdurahman, agrees: “Heart disease is a serious issue. Regardless of race, age or gender you can improve your heart’s health and reduce your chances of disease by simply making small changes to your lifestyle.”

September is National Heart Health Awareness month and South Africans are being encouraged to keep the engine room of their bodies running smoothly. “There are a number of vitamins and supplements on the market which claim to support heart health. However, many of these have not been the subject of rigorous trials and we would probably be wise to view them with some wariness,” Laubscher says.

“On the other hand, the benefits of supplements such as Omega 3 oils are quite well documented and some doctors prescribe them to patients to support heart health or to assist deal with cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol. It is certainly one of the most commonly taken supplements for heart and general health. Omega 3 oil is an anti-inflammatory agent, which assists in keeping the heart and vascular systems healthy.

heart, stethoscope

“Red yeast rice is another supplement that is used to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol, improve blood flow and help prevent heart attack. It is derived from a type of yeast that grows on rice and has become very popular in South Africa in recent years. Some of the other supplements that may benefit your heart include B-Complex vitamins (B6, B12, folic acid), fibre, niacin, plant sterols and green tea extract.”

In recent years South Africans have been exercising less. Our dietary habits have also worsened. “Cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol levels, diabetes and obesity have increased dramatically,” Laubscher says. “A heart attack generally translates into many years of unhealthy habits.

It occurs when the supply of nutrient-rich blood to the heart muscle is reduced or stopped. While there are many reasons for a reduction in blood supply, arteriosclerosis, an arterial disease that causes a narrowing and blockage of the arteries, is one of the most common. Many scientific studies show that certain risk factors increase the risk of coronary heart disease. High blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, cigarette smoke and physical inactivity are considered modifiable high risk factors while diabetes mellitus and obesity are contributing risk factors.

Individuals should take control of what are known as their modifiable risk factors, such as their diet. If you want to have a healthy heart, you need to have healthy eating habits since all the food you consume affects the health of your heart.”

Before you decide that life is going to be incredibly dull without your favourite foods, take heart (pun intended). Alcohol can be good for you. “In recent years there have been some widely publicised studies that show that a moderate intake of alcohol may have some health benefits,” says Laubscher. “However … people who regularly drink excessive amounts of alcohol are damaging their health and their hearts.”