Heart Health

15 July 2005

Heart disease – the facts

Heart disease and stroke are the number one killers in South Africa. One in three men and one in four women will suffer from cardiovascular disease before they are 60 years old.

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Heart disease and stroke are the number one killers in South Africa. One in three men and one in four women will suffer from cardiovascular disease (affecting the heart and the rest of the blood vessels) before they are 60 years old.

Heart disease and you

Heart disease is regarded as a chronic disease of lifestyle. According to the South African Medical Research Council, a chronic disease of lifestyle is one of a group of diseases which share the same risk factors as a result of decades of exposure to:

  • Unhealthy diets;
  • Lack of exercise;
  • Smoking;
  • Stress.

These risk factors predispose to various disease processes such as strokes, heart attacks, tobacco- and nutrition-induced cancers, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and many others that result in high mortality and morbidity (ill health).

In 1990, the top five causes of death and disease around the world were:

  • Lower respiratory tract infections;
  • Diarrhoea;
  • Conditions arising during pregnancy;
  • Major depression;
  • Heart disease.

By 2020 the top five causes of death and disease are predicted to be:

  • Heart disease;
  • Major depression;
  • Road traffic accidents;
  • Stroke;
  • Chronic chest diseases.

Most people assume that heart disease and stroke are very much diseases of a Western lifestyle and as such only affect the more affluent sectors of society. Unfortunately this is no longer true. With increasing urbanisation, more people in the developing world are starting to sucumb to heart disease and stroke.

A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that more than half the non-communicable diseases occuring in the world are in developing countries. Non-communicable diseases tend to be chronic diseases of lifestyle.

The costs of heart disease and stroke

Recent South Africa research shows that:

  • In 1991 the estimated direct cost of heart disease and stroke in South Africa was between R4 135 and R5 035 billion. About three quarters of these costs were carried by the private sector and these figures do not include the costs of rehabilitation and follow up;
  • The direct health care costs were around 42% of the total costs. The indirect costs are more difficult to work out since they include days lost to work, premature retirement and premature death;
  • The costs of the deaths attributable to heart disease and stroke were around R1 864 million and the costs of related ill health were around R999 2 million
  • The amount spent by the state hospitals on heart disease and stroke was R4613 billion.

Information from the Heart Foundation of South Africa and the South African Medical Research Council.

Read more:
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