Heart Health

04 September 2007

SA city dwellers risk heart attacks

City dwellers are at greater risk of heart disease, according to a report released this week by the Medical Research Council of South Africa.

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City dwellers are at greater risk of heart disease, according to a report released this week by the Medical Research Council of South Africa.

Nutrition surveys in South Africa have previously shown that most people living in cities follow a diet associated with an increased risk for heart attacks, whereas people following a rural diet of unrefined carbohydrates are less at risk.

The report, which was commissioned by the Hearth and Stroke Association, points to the following undesirable trends in westernised South African diets:

  • Poor intake of fruit and vegetables
  • High plant and animal fat intake, which is on the increase
  • Insufficient intake of milk and other dairy products
  • Overall increases in kilojoule intake, which will exacerbate obesity
  • High and increasing alcohol intake
  • Low fibre intake due to low intake of fruit, vegetables and legumes

Energy intake has risen from 2600kJ per day in 1962 to 2900kJ per day in 2001. Within the same period the daily intake of vegetable oils per person has nearly doubled from 25g to 42g.

The most disturbing nutritional trend affects urban black South Africans. A study of a group who had lived less than 20% of their life in Cape Town townships showed that they still had a good diet, while those who had lived in the city for more than 80% of their life had adopted a typical western diet with more than 30% of their energy coming from fat.

Other noteworthy statistics in this report shows that:

  • Older people eat less fat and salt than younger people
  • The white and Indian community eat less fat than the black and coloured people in the country
  • Those living in the Western Cape report eating less fat than those in other provinces

According to study author Prof Krisela Steyn from the UCT Department of Medicine, “Every person thinks they’re an expert on food and they don’t realise there’s much to learn about a healthy eating pattern. People must be encouraged to acquire this knowledge from organisations such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa and the National Departments of Health. Reading food labels is also beneficial.”

(Marion Scher, Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, September 2007)

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