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Health & Fitness

Study reveals where in SA the risk of heart disease is highest




Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in SA, after HIV/Aids. Over 78 000 South Africans die each year from heart disease and there are no signs of a decrease in the foreseeable future.

It’s well known that SA has one of the highest rates of obesity, smoking and drinking in the world, which are all major contributing factors of cardiovascular disease, but the incidence of CVD also tends to vary based on where you live.

SA’s leading provider of generic cardiovascular medication, Pharma Dynamics, set out to determine people’s likely risk of suffering a heart attack based on where in SA they live. They did so by analysing the number of calls a top emergency response firm – which treats both medical aid and state patients – received for possible heart attacks across the country over a two-year period (May 2014 to April 2016). The study turned up some interesting results.

Based on the number of emergency calls received related to possible heart failures, the Northern region of the Western Cape, topped the list with 701 calls, while residents of Xtrata – a small mining town in Mpumalanga – seemed to have a very slim chance of suffering the same fate.
The second most heart-related emergency calls emanated from Vereeniging – arguably the town that boasts the most car dealerships per square metre in the country, which could be telling of the kind of stress car salespeople in the area are under since the global slump inautomotive sales.

Mariska van Aswegen, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics says chronic job stress has a major impact on one’s heart-health and exposes the body to unhealthy, persistently elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which puts additional strain on the heart.
“Studies also link stress to changes in the way blood clots, which increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke. High levels of stress could also make other risk factors, such as cholesterol or hypertension worse.”

According to Pharma Dynamics’ findings, overall the most calls originated from the larger metros in the country.
Van Aswegen remarks that in general those living in metropolitan areas struggle with chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity and diabetes – all precursors for heart disease.
“Residents in the majority of these areas are among the least likely to exercise regularly and smoking rates also tend to be high, which further heightens their risk of heart disease. Poor diet is also commonly associated with heart conditions. Unfortunately, the demands of a fast-paced urban lifestyle doesn’t leave much room for nutritional meal planning and it’s increasingly putting people into contact with fast-food, which often carries a high fat, sugar and salt content,” she says.

Based on the report, here’s how South Africans’ risk of suffering a heart attack varies by province:

  • Gauteng residents are twice as likely to suffer from a heart attack than those living in KwaZulu-Natal, and have by far the highest risk overall as a whopping 3 359 emergency calls for heart-related conditions emanated from this part of the country
  • Despite the sun, surf and laid-back lifestyle Western Cape residents enjoy, the picture doesn’t look much rosier for them as about 2 320 emergency calls were made from this region
  • It’s still a code blue situation for Durbanites following the 1 692 calls that were recorded in KwaZulu-Natal
  • The Free State is also not in the clear after clocking 1 047 emergency calls related to possible ticker-problems
  • Residents in Mpumalanga seem to have a much lower likelihood of suffering a heart attack based on the 868 emergency calls that were made from the area
  • The risk however drops significantly for those in the Eastern Cape where about 552 emergency calls were logged
  • The vast open spaces of the Northern Cape might have something to do with its low heart-failure risk where only about 408 calls were made from
  • The Platinum Belt also seem to struggle with fewer heart-related conditions as a low 384 emergency calls originated from the North West Province
  • Folk in Limpopo – the fifth most populated province – are clearly doing something right as only 201 emergency calls were made from this region

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of SA, 75% of cardiovascular events occur in 5% – 10% of people who have suffered a previous heart attack or stroke.

“In the event of a heart attack, it’s critical to respond quickly,” says van Aswegen. “Immediately call an emergency response number so an ambulance with advanced life support can be sent for you. The most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort, but other symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea and back or jaw pain may also be present.”

“To avoid a life-threatening incident such as a heart attack, people should inform themselves of the early signs and symptoms of heart disease in order to enable them to seek the necessary help while there’s still time. When treatment is started early – in combination with other lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking – serious long-term complications can be prevented. As things stand, only about 40% of South Africans who have high blood pressure have their condition under control by taking medication.

“Promoting a healthy and active lifestyle cannot be overstated in the treatment of patients with heart conditions. This approach addresses all the risk factors present in a patient and can have an enormous impact on the patient’s quality of life and life-span,” she emphasises.
For more information about Pharma Dynamics’ national wellness campaign, called I Change for Health (iC4H), which aims to reduce deaths from heart disease and stroke,

“Knowing how people’s risk of heart disease break down by city or province could help healthcare researchers to redirect their focus in the areas where the risk is highest,” concludes van Aswegen.

Metrosmag,sa ( inspired by Mzansi Lifestyle ) Mzansi is rich in Lifestyle, a nation diverse in race and culture. Mzansi Magazine explores the rich heritage , versitile culture and the celebrations of Life in Mzansi. Metros Magazine, SA is South Africa's informative Metropolitan lifestlye magazine with all the fresh and important news in Mzansi.

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Health & Fitness

Hoe to beat a headache without resorting to painkillers




One in 50 of us suffer ‘rebound headaches’ because we pop too many painkillers over a long time, says the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

Medical advice is to take them no more than two days a week. Here are ways to ease the pain without tablets.

1 Take your thumb for a walk over your big toe

In reflexology, your big toe relates to your head – and applying pressure on it is said to help ease headaches and migraines.

Denise Whichello Brown, author of The Reflexology Healing Bible, says: “Thumb-walk from the outer edge of the base of the big toe up the outside, over the top and down the inside. Then thumb-walk up the back of the big toe from the base to the tip.”


2 Tennis balls advantage

Take two and place them side by side in a sock so they’re in a ‘peanut shape’. Now lie on your back and place the balls where your head meets your neck.

Slowly tuck your chin down towards your chest as if nodding and repeat for one minute as the balls massage the neck.

Then move your head from side to side as if saying no. This helps soothe the suboccipital muscles that are a major cause of tension headache pain.

3 Gulp a glass of water

A headache may be a sign that your body needs more water. Some experts say even when you’re mildly to moderately dehydrated the blood vessels in the brain narrow in an attempt to regulate body fluid levels – causing the pain of a headache.

So, if you think you haven’t drunk enough water during the day, glug a glass.

4 Eat something

Going too long without eating can trigger a headache. Alexis Poole, registered nutritionist at Spoon Guru ( ) says: “In your body, your brain requires the most energy to function. If glucose levels drop too low, it’s one of the first areas affected and a headache can be a symptom.”

You should aim to eat healthy, balanced meals at regular times, but if you’re out of routine keep healthy snacks handy. Try wholegrain oatcakes, a banana or natural yogurt with fruit.

5 Have a cup of cayenne

Lily Soutter, nutritionist at Nuffield Health ( ) says: “Capsaicin is the active ingredient in cayenne pepper – and it’s been shown to bring pain relief to migraine sufferers. It works by desensitizing nerve endings.

“A quick and easy way to consume cayenne pepper? Mix 1 teaspoon with lemon juice in a cup of warm water and drink.”

6 Nod your head

Lots of headaches are caused by tension in the neck muscles (often the result of sleeping awkwardly or hunching at your desk all day)

Gentle neck stretches can ease muscle tightness and help ease the pain. Try the Head Nod.

“Drop your head down, tucking the chin in towards the upper chest,” says Lexie Williamson, author of The Stretching Bible. “Lift your head and look slightly up. Continue to nod your head slowly and smoothly.”

7 Turn off your computer

Too much screen time can lead to ‘computer vision syndrome’ – with symptoms including dry, burning eyes and headaches.

Bhavin Shah, behavioural optometrist at , says: “Some people also have an underlying difficulty where the eyes have reduced stamina for focusing or working together. Others may simply need glasses – so see your optician.

“Taking a 15-20 minute break every 50 minutes will make a huge difference to headaches and eye strain. And remember the 20-20-20 rule – look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.”

8 Slip on sunglasses

“Bright sunlight and glare from reflected sunlight can trigger migraines and headaches in some people,” says Bhavin. “Look for polarised sunglasses that have special filters which block glare.

9 Focus on other body bits

“Often when you have a headache you can become entirely focused on the discomfort and this can make things worse,” says integrative health expert David James Lees ( )

“A simple Taoist meditation technique called ‘becoming the observer’ draws your attention away from the headache and can reduce your perception of the pain.

“Sit or lie down. Close your eyes, drop your shoulders and breathe slowly and deeply. Now move your attention away from your headache and focus on your whole body. Notice how the other parts of your body feel, all the way down to your fingertips and toes.

“Then turn your attention towards the environment around you. Notice and enjoy all the sensations you can feel, hear and smell. Continue to relax, breathe deeply and enjoy this quiet time for as long as suits you.”

10 Press your ‘He-Gu’ button

NICE recommends acupuncture for preventing tension headaches and you can try some of the techniques at home using acupressure.

“There are several acupressure points that are helpful for headaches,” says David James Lees.

“One is the ‘He Gu’ or ‘Union Valley’, a powerful point located in the web between your thumb and index finger.

“Apply pressure firmly and deeply on this point, hold for three seconds and release. Repeat three times on both hands. This will help relieve frontal and sinus headaches, and release tension from the neck and head.”

11 Pick rosemary

Medical herbalist Dee Atkinson advises: “Ease a headache by crushing a fresh sprig of rosemary between your fingers and inhaling the aroma. Massage diluted essential oil of rosemary onto temples or place a few drops onto a cotton hankie and tuck into your clothing around your neck area.”

12 Navel gaze

Most of us breathe too shallowly into our chests which can reduce the supply of oxygen to blood vessels in the brain, resulting in headaches.

Try focusing on a spot below your navel, then imagine breathing air into that spot, letting your tummy and lungs fill with air, then letting it all out slowly with a long exhale.


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Rooibos could be the antidote to SA’s poor sleep hygiene




According to research, South Africans don’t sleep enough, which is considered a major public health concern as it not only costs the economy billions as a result of lost productivity and motor vehicle accidents, it could also lead to a variety of health complications such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

On average South Africans sleep around six hours a night, based on data collected by a sleep app, called Sleep Cycle. Most cited 6.24am as their rising time but said they found it difficult to go to bed before midnight. The majority only crawled under the covers again at 12.20am.

While 6 hours of sleep might sound adequate, it’s the sleep you clock before midnight that really counts.

According to sleep experts, the time you go to sleep makes a significant difference in terms of the structure and quality of your sleep. Your sleep cycle comprises of a series of 90 minute cycles during which your brain moves from deep, non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep to REM sleep. As the night progresses, the ratio changes. Non-REM sleep tends to dominate sleep in the early part of the night, but wanes as the new day dawns.

Whether it’s mounting work stress, the Gupta leaks saga, social media or general insomnia – which affects as many as 40% of adults at some stage in their lives – that’s keeping you awake, home-grown rooibos could just be the natural antidote to cure our nation’s sleep crisis.

Ernest du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council says research done by several academic institutions proves rooibos’ calming effects on the body.

“A study by Stellenbosch University showed that rooibos tea could alleviate stress and anxiety levels, and as a result, aid in a good night’s rest. There are two critical compounds found in rooibos which interfere with the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. These are aspalathin and nothofagin – both potent antioxidants. The lower the levels of cortisol in the body, the higher the likelihood of uninterrupted sleep.

“Rooibos also contains magnesium and calcium – both minerals which play a role in a good night’s sleep. Studies published in the European Neurology Journal confirm that calcium levels spike during deep sleep. The brain uses calcium to manufacture the sleeping hormone, melatonin, which enhances the quality of your sleep. Other research has shown that magnesium deficiency can also lead to chronic insomnia (inability to sleep). Magnesium is also known as nature’s tranquiliser and has a calming effect on your nervous system which promotes deep sleep.

“If your children have trouble sleeping, give them a cup of rooibos too about an hour or two before bedtime to ensure you all get some needed zzz’s,” recommends du Toit.

Another potential factor hampering our sleep, could be our nation’s addiction to coffee.

Du Toit notes that unlike rooibos, coffee and most other teas contain caffeine – a stimulant that keeps you awake, so rather limit these beverages to the morning. With rooibos, the opposite is true. The more you drink, the better you will sleep.

“Drinking rooibos tea supplies your body with all the nutrients it needs for a peaceful night’s rest,” concludes du Toit.

Celebs that rely on a cup or rooibos just before bedtime include rugby player, Courtnall Skosan, actresses, Katlego Danke and Carine Rous, along with Black Like Me mogul, Herman Mashaba.

To spice things up, try mixing rooibos tea with cinnamon and honey – also known for their sleep-inducing qualities.

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Health & Fitness

The Real Reason You’re Gaining Weight As You Get Older and how to prevent it.




Many of us have experienced it firsthand: As the years go by, the pounds become more difficult to keep off. But have you ever wondered exactly why we experience weight gain as we age? Hint: Your eating habits actually aren’t to blame.

There are a variety of reasons, explains Dr. Caroline Apovian, the Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center, professor at the Boston University School of Medicine, and the vice-president of The Obesity Society. A change in hormones, a more sedentary lifestyle, and an increase in stress and decrease in sleep due to added responsibilities are just a few.

“But a major reason for middle aged weight gain is the natural muscle loss we all experience,” Dr. Apovian, the author of The Age-Defying Diet and The Overnight Diet: The Proven Plan for Fast, Permanent Weight Loss, says. “The amount of lean muscle mass we have is the primary determinant of metabolic rate. In other words, the more muscle mass we have, the more calories we will burn. Our muscle mass naturally begins to decline around age 30, and that process, called sarcopenia, accelerates around age 40. Unless something is done to actively protect and build up that lean muscle mass, our bodies will require fewer calories, our metabolisms will slow, and the lost muscle will be replaced by fat.”

So, what can you do to prevent sarcopenia? Dr. Apovian offers three tips:

  1. “Exercise with weights at least twice per week, building up in both weight and intensity as you progress,” she says.
  2. “Eat a diet rich in lean protein sources, including protein smoothies.”
  3. “Get plenty of sleep,” Dr. Apovian concludes. “Amongst other health benefits, this gives the body time to repair and rebuild the muscles.”

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