Updated 06 June 2013

Startling heart facts from SA insurers

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of insurance claims by men and women. Read some startling facts and figures provided by an insurance company.


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of insurance claims by men and women across critical illness and life cover, and is occurring at younger ages than ever before.

South African men and women are leading increasingly unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles and our hearts are paying the ultimate price. In an analysis of its claims between May 2011 and May 2012, top risk product provider of 2012, Altrisk, revealed some sobering statistics.

“Current insurance claims trends indicate that serious illnesses such as heart disease are no longer the preserve of men and the elderly. While men remain a higher risk group for now in terms of heart disease, women are catching up fast and can no longer afford to ignore their risks for heart disease,” says Michael Blain, managing director of Altrisk. 

Altrisk reveals some sobering statistics derived from its own claims analysis about the heart health of South African men and women:

Women’s claims statistics

  • 34% of all life claims by women are due to heart disease.
  • A large portion of these claims are from women younger than 50.
  • Indications are that heart disease is becoming the number 1 cause of death amongst women.
  • Cancer is still the number one cause of all critical illness claims by women, but strokes and heart attacks follow closely in second place, with that gap closing.
  • 8.6 million women die annually from cardiovascular disease (CVD) worldwide according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa. It is the largest single cause of death, accounting for a third of all deaths in women worldwide. In South Africa, CVD remains one of the major killers, with one in four women experiencing some form of heart condition before the age of 60.

Men’s claims statistics

  • Heart disease is the number 1 cause of life claims for men, across all age groups.
  • 29% of the total critical illness claims by men are caused by heart disease.
  • 50% of critical illness claims due to heart disease occur in men between the ages of 41 and 50.
  • 50% of all critical illness claims by men across all age groups is caused by heart disease and cancer. 
  • 22% of life claims due to heart disease are in the 31 to 40 age group. 
  • 55% of life claims due to heart disease are in the age group 41 to 50, far outpacing any other cause of claim. 

Preventing CVD

Prevention of cardiovascular disease should be a priority in our lives. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, up to 80% of CVD is preventable by making healthy lifestyle choices.  A healthy lifestyle means:  

  • Good nutrition - Healthy eating is one of the most important things you can do for a healthier life.   When it comes to proteins, choose lean or lower-fat options with less bad (saturated) fats and opt for chicken and fish more often.  Try to include tinned or fresh fish as part of your diet at least twice a week and eat five fruit and veg every day.  Remember to stick to high-fibre foods and avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar.
  • Exercise - Lack of physical exercise is a risk factor for both heart disease and high blood pressure. In comparison to those who exercise regularly, inactive people have twice the risk of suffering a heart attack and three times the chance of dying immediately after such an attack.  The heart is a muscle and needs exercise to stay fit and healthy.
  • Avoiding smoking - Smoking almost triples the risk of heart disease. It narrows blood vessels and expands blood clots, causing the cardiovascular equivalent of a traffic jam on the highway to your heart and brain. Reduce blood flow to the heart and you risk a heart attack. Reduce it to the brain and you risk a stroke.

“Having just experienced National Heart Awareness month, it is the perfect time for South Africans to take stock of their health and lifestyle. Caring for your heart and health shouldn’t just take place once a year and there is no better time than the present to make positive changes to improve your overall and heart health. It’s also the perfect time to think about securing your financial future in case you are one of the millions to suffer some sort of CVD. Everyone should know their risk of contracting CVD and speak to their financial advisor about the risk products that they have in place to protect their finances and provide for their loved ones,” concludes Michael.   

*Statistics based on Altrisk’s assessment of its critical illness, disability and life insurance claims, made by women, between May 2011 and May 2012. 

(Press release from Altrisk, October 2012) 


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