Heart disease is a silent killer

Heart disease is the Number 2 leading cause of death in South Africa. Every hour about 5 people die due to heart attacks and 10 people suffer strokes.

If you make two fists and hold them together, you get the approximate size of your heart. Your heart is situated in the centre of your chest and points slightly to the left. It weighs about 280-340 grams.

It’s your heart’s job to feed oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to 75 trillion cells and to remove carbon dioxide and other wastes. If you leave a normal kitchen tap running full blast for 45 years you get how much blood a heart pumps in a lifetime. Your heart begins beating 4 weeks after conception, and beats about 60-80 times a minute – every minute – for the rest of your life. That is 2.5 billion heartbeats in an average lifetime.

A heart attack happens when a clot forms in the arteries of the heart or they become too narrow to allow sufficient blood-flow to the heart muscle. Heart failure is caused when the heart is unable to pump blood around the body which means the blood circulation is slowed down and the body retains excess fluid. When the blood flow to the heart is interrupted, a stroke occurs.

Blood flow can be interrupted when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and causes bleeding or when a blood clot blocks the flow. Because the affected blood cells do not receive oxygen, they begin to die.

To know what condition your heart is in, you need a check-up. High blood pressure, ‘bad’ cholesterol, being overweight or obese and high blood sugar levels are four major enemies of your heart. You don’t want them on your team. You want them out. Now.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa says in their 2014 annual report that 80% of all heart disease and stroke-related deaths can be avoided by making lifestyle changes like eating healthily, doing regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco, being sensible about your alcohol intake and reducing your stress levels.

When you look after your heart, you give yourself a future. Go see your doctor.