Heart disease: are you at risk?

Posted on 28 September 2016

It’s estimated that one in three deaths in people over the age of 35 is due to heart disease or heart-related health problems. Make sure you’re aware of your risk profile and the warning signs.

There are various types of heart-related diseases. Some affect the heart muscle, for example heart failure. Some affect the valves, for example rheumatic fever, and some are inherited, for example congenital heart disease.

But by far the most common type of heart disease is coronary-artery disease, which affects the blood vessels and is most often linked to an unhealthy lifestyle. Dr Pieter Roussouw, a cardiologist at Mediclinic Panorama, highlights who is most at risk – and the warning signs to look out for.

How many of these eight risk factors do you have?


1. Age
Your risk for heart disease increases with age. The older you are, the more likely you are to develop heart disease.

2. Gender
Men are more likely to suffer from heart disease than women.

3. Lifestyle
If you smoke or are exposed to high levels of stress, your risk for heart disease increases dramatically – especially if you tick the box for both.

4. Diet
A diet high in saturated fat is not good for your cardio-vascular wellness. Being overweight is additionally detrimental.

5. Exercise
You need to exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day at least five days a week to promote a healthy heart. ‘I always tell my patients that exercise is more effective at reducing the risks for heart disease than any pills I can prescribe,’ says Dr Rossouw.

6. Socio-economic status
Research shows that living in a developing country and/or falling into a low-income population group increases your risk.

7. Family history
If you have immediate family members who suffer from heart disease, you are genetically more likely to develop heart disease.

8. High cholesterol and/or blood pressure
It’s important to have an annual full cholesterol screening test, especially if you’re over 35. Discuss the results with a trained medical professional who will consider your results in combination with other risk factors. Having consistently high blood pressure, regardless of whether it’s caused by lifestyle or familial factors, will increase your risk too.

Do you know the warning signs?

Seek immediate medical attention if you have the following symptoms that may indicate a heart attack:

•    Pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest.
•    Pain, tingling or discomfort in other parts of the body, including the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach.
•    Shortness of breath.
•    Nausea, vomiting, burping or heartburn.
•    Sweating or cold, clammy skin.
•    A racing or uneven heartbeat.
•    Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.

Published in Cardiology

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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