A nurse takes a blood sample from a patient to test her blood sugar levels. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
A nurse takes a blood sample from a patient to test her blood sugar levels. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Heart health and stress: The importance of detecting early warning signs

By Lifestyle Reporter Time of article published Oct 7, 2020

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According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, 225 South Africans die of heart disease every day.

You might be aware that heart disease or cardiovascular disease as a broader term includes a range of conditions which could be caused by a variety of factors.

For some types of heart disease such as rheumatic heart disease or congenital heart disease there is a specific cause, i.e. infection or birth defects. However, most cases of heart disease are attributed to lifestyle factors that cause gradual weakening of the heart and blood vessels.

These include lack of exercise, improper diet, not monitoring weight regularly, and smoking.

Eight out of 10 cases of cardiovascular disease are preventable, meaning you can take certain steps to drastically reduce your risk. So how can we get better at taking care of our heart? The obvious answer is to stay active and follow a healthy diet. What’s interesting is that this, coupled with having good sleeping patterns and managing stress levels, can not only help prevent heart disease, it is critical to elevating mood and raising immunity, too.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on overall well-being due to sudden lifestyle adjustments, along with social and economic changes. Stress and anxiety levels often increase when people are faced with sudden major lifestyle changes, and chronic stress can then lead to health problems such as increased risk for heart disease, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and mental health disorders including depression and anxiety.

According to statistics released by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) as many as 1 in 6South Africans suffer from anxiety, depression or substance-abuse problems.

As people get more tech-savvy, they are turning to wearable devices to measure physical activity and achieve better health.

By using advanced technologies to improve general health, about 75 percent of cardiovascular disease can be prevented, according to a recent study from Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

This recent HIMSS report also showed that health-care providers would like to have more patient-generated health data, such as that provided by wearable devices, to aid in managing chronic diseases and improve care delivery.

The data collected from wearable devices can offer a window into management for several chronic diseases and ultimately help to drive behavioural changes.

Wearable devices such as those made by Fitbit can help people make informed changes to their eating habits by recording your food intake and measuring calories burnt. The wearable devices can not only motivate you to stick to a diet but also help you build an exercise plan with long-term benefits.

Eating heart-healthy fruits and veggies can also protect your heart. For example, beetroot contains betaine, which can lower levels of heart-harming amino acids. They are also a good source of folic acid, which lowers blood pressure.

With all these innovations and information at our finger tips, we can be empowered to take control of our heart health.

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