Heart Health

01 March 2012

Heart risk up among poor

South Africa is facing a major health crisis with rates of heart disease among the poor reaching epidemic levels, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has warned.


The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) has rubbished the decades-old assumption that cardiovascular disease (CVD), one of the world’s leading causes of death, mainly affects the rich.

It is now disproportionately affecting poorer families, possibly leading to disability, premature death, and worsening poverty, warns the HSFSA.

Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, CEO of HSFSA says the country is facing a major health crisis with rates of heart disease among the poor reaching epidemic levels.

“If CVD continues to rise among the poor at current rates, the treatment costs of CVD and complications associated with the disease will soon begin to impact heavily on the South African taxpayer.”

She ascribes the dramatic rise in CVD incidence in poorer communities to the adoption of a more westernised diet without the healthier options easily accessible to higher income groups.

“Urbanisation and the adoption of a 'westernised' diet have seen our poorer communities eating a diet high in animal proteins, saturated fat, salt and sugar, while eating less fruit and vegetables and obtaining inadequate fibre and unrefined carbohydrates.

“Combine this with a lifestyle that is increasingly physically inactive, add high alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking to the mix, and you create a scenario that opens the floodgates to hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and the resultant increased risk of heart attacks and stroke,” says Dr Mungal-Singh.

Multi-cultural, budget friendly recipe book

In an attempt to address this urgent need, the HSFSA has joined hands with CVD generic medicine provider, Pharma Dynamics and Chronic Diseases Initiative Africa (CDIA), to launch a full-scale national research and education programme in under-privileged communities.

Complementing their annual Heart Awareness Road Shows, which provide comprehensive heart screenings combined with an education programme, the partners are now also compiling a multi-cultural, budget friendly recipe book.

The Cooking from the Heart recipe book is being produced by Pharma Dynamics in conjunction with the HSFSA, and aims to serve as an easily accessible manual to healthier living, taking into account constraints associated with the user’s socio-economic circumstances, including limited budget and food choices.

Mariska Fouche, Public Affairs Manager at Pharma Dynamics, says The Cooking from the Heart recipe book will be compiled following a nationwide call for the public to submit favourite family recipes, which will be adapted into healthier recipe versions by dieticians from the HSFSA, without compromising on the original recipe’s taste. The book will be launched in September to coincide with National Heart Awareness Month.

“The aim of the project is to produce and test a resource package for primary healthcare providers and community healthcare workers to enable them to offer behavioural change counselling for South African communities in a variety of settings. Cooking from the Heart will be one of the educational and motivational tools contained in the resource package.”

Healthy food choices

Fouche says the book will make it easier for previously disadvantaged communities to incorporate healthy choices into their diets.

“Cooking from the Heart will be distributed free of charge by the HSFSA to economically stressed communities across South Africa. We hope that it will also provide much-needed support to healthcare workers who promote healthy living as part of disease prevention and management.

“The Department of Health has also recognised healthy food choices as an integral part of a healthy society, which the Cooking from the Heart initiative aims to achieve in order to assist in preventing the growing epidemic of non-communicable diseases, such as CVD,” says Fouche.

The initiative also forms part of a larger research project called "Putting Prevention into Practice" which is being undertaken by the CDIA.

Prof Krisela Steyn, Associate Director of the CDIA says, “Healthy living intervention programmes such as Cooking from the Heart, which are realistic for the poorer sector of our society are essential to help all South Africans to protect themselves against the ever growing local CVD epidemic.”

 Pharma Dynamics press release

- (Health24, March 2012)

Read more:

Heart disease, stroke: poor countries' new burden


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.