Updated 27 September 2016

Fight fat for better heart health

Cardiovascular disease kills 200 South Africans every day and 5.5 million are at risk because of high cholesterol. Here's what you can do to avoid becoming another statistic.


September is Heart Awareness Month, with the theme One World, One Home, One Heart, One Test.

“Each and every South African needs to take their heart health seriously,” says Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA). “ Cardiovascular disease kills 200 individuals in SA every day, which equates to 13 mini bus loads of people!  Moreover 5.5 million South Africans are at risk because of their high cholesterol levels, so we’re sitting on a time bomb.”

The challenge is on for every South African, regardless of race, age or gender to do just one thing to improve their heart’s health. Heart disease can be prevented. By applying small changes to your lifestyle you can improve your cholesterol levels. By taking up the challenge and having one heart health test this September (ranging from a simple BMI and blood pressure test at only R10 to a comprehensive lipogram test at R100), you can identify whether you are at risk from this silent killer.

So how does high cholesterol put your heart health at risk?

There are two types of cholesterol in our bodies – one good type and one bad.

Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) isa bad form of cholesterol because it builds up in the arteries of the heart, brain and throughout the body, which can lead to blockages. This can eventually cause clogged arteries in the legs, a heart attack or even a stroke.

High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is good because it helps to get rid of cholesterol from the body.

Know your cholesterol numbers

It is recommended that everyone from the age of 20 has their cholesterol checked and does a follow up test at least once every five years after that. If you have a family history of heart attacks at an early age, or of high cholesterol, you may need to get a check up more regularly. The cholesterol test is a simple prick, which will determine your cholesterol levels in less than 15 minutes.

The risk for disease increases when men are around 45 and women around 55. It is important that people in this age group ask for a comprehensive lipogram test when they go for their regular medical check-ups.

For an accurate alternative of measuring cholesterol to identify whether you are at a higher risk of heart disease, it is suggested that you do a CardioCheck lipogram test, which is offered at Clicks Clinics nationwide.  

According to Rene Anderson, Commercial Head of Clinics at Clicks,a lipogram test is done on a blood sample to determine more accurate cholesterol levels for an individual.

Know what you eat

The good news is that our Department of Health is serious about reducing your chances of developing cardiovascular disease by imposing a ban on artery clogging trans fats, which came into effect in August 2011. Trans fats are toxic fats that we need to eliminate from our diets. These are found in vegetable oils that have been chemically altered or hydrogenated so that they don’t become off quickly and can be re-used often, for example, in fried foods at fast-food outlets. They are also used to preserve the shelf life of fats, so can be found in food products such as biscuits, cakes, snack foods (e.g. crisps), pies and hard margarines.

Trans fats may be worse than saturated fats and can increase the risk of a heart disease. They have also been linked to diabetes and breast and prostate cancer.

What you can do to improve your heart numbers?

“Regular exercise and eating well can easily help control cholesterol levels. Decrease fatty and fast foods intake, substitute red meat for chicken, fish or pork and avoid sauces and gravies, or rather have low fat options,” says Dr Vash.

Some simple tips include:

  • Cardiovascular exercise should be done for at least 150 minutes per week during which time the heart rate should increase to between 50% and 70% of the maximal rate. An easy way to calculate yourheart rateis by simply subtracting your agefrom 220. If you are over 40 years old your maximumheart rate will be 180. 
  • A healthy diet and being physically active are good ways to start improving your health and wellbeing.
  • Reduce your overall fat intake in your diet, particularly your intake of saturated and trans-fats.
  • Speak to your pharmacist on how you can reduce your risks of getting heart disease.
  • Get your cholesterol levels checked out at your nearest Clicks Clinic or Pharmacy.

Take control of your cholesterol and geta cholesterol test, which only takes a few minutes and is available at Clicks pharmacies nationwide. R5 of every assessment at Clicks will be donated to the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA.

For more information on how to manage your cholesterol, contact your nearest Clicks Pharmacy, visit or call 0860 CLICKS/254 257.

Clicks press release

- (Health24, September 2011)

Read more:

Love your heart, make one change
SA declares war on trans fats
Know your numbers for a healthy heart
Slideshow: top 10 heart-smart foods

Any questions? Ask Health24's Cardiologist


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