An overwhelming 45 out of every 100 Pick n Pay shoppers tested nationwide have been found to have high cholesterol, a major contributor to death and disability from heart disease and stroke.
The Flora Test the Nation campaign was held throughout the month of September, culminating in a major cholesterol testing drive at 41 participating Pick n Pay stores nationwide on Saturday, 26 September.
Results show that 3022 (45,3%) of 6,671 participants had a cholesterol number higher than 5mmol/L, meaning preventive and treatment measures were urgently needed. A reading of 5mmol/L is the target value for most people, although in those with higher risk profiles the target is lower.
“The latest statistics show that 5.5 million South Africans are at risk of heart disease due to elevated cholesterol, and the medical fraternity estimate that up to 30% don’t know," says Sue Wilson, registered nurse and director of Patient Focus Africa, who conducted the testing. "However, the results of our testing on 26 September reveal that even more people may be unaware.”
Most victims in their productive years
The free test with a Flora purchase, which formed part of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa’s annual Heart Awareness Month campaign, also revealed that of those who submitted details of their age, the age group 46 to 55 had the highest number of respondents at 49% with an increased level of cholesterol.
This tallied with the findings of the recent report on “Heart Disease in SA” commissioned by the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA and undertaken by the Medical Research Council (MRC), which found that heart attacks and stroke often hit victims in their productive working years of life, removing the breadwinner from families.
Alarmingly, in the 36 to 45 age group, 44% of men and women had high cholesterol.
One stereotype that was bashed in the Test the Nation initiative is that more men have higher cholesterol than women. Of all those tested, a higher percentage of women than men were found to have a worrying cholesterol reading.
Need for urgent intervention
“The results of the Flora Test the Nation initiative reaffirm the need for urgent intervention,” says Director of Nutrition at the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA, Shân Biesman-Simons. “The Heart and Stroke Foundation SA is determined to make all South Africans aware of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and for each person to assess their individual risk.
Biesman-Simons says an average of 195 South Africans – or 13 minibus loads – die every day of some form of heart disease.
Actuarial projections suggest that cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases will have increased by 2010, with a 41% increase in premature heart-related deaths expected between 2007 and 2030. “Yet up to 80% of heart disease and stroke could be prevented by setting up healthy habits for life including a good diet, exercise and avoiding smoking,” Biesman-Simons says.
(Simeka TWS Communications, October 2009)
Read more: Know your numbers for a healthy heart