Heart Beats

With permission from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of S.A.


Heart and stroke news and breakthroughs that you need to know about.  By Candice  Verwey.


Give a tennis ball a good hard squeeze.  That’s equivalent to the force your heart uses to pump blood out to the rest of your body.  Believe it or not, the muscles of the heart, even when you’re at rest, work twice as hard as the leg muscles of a person sprinting!


Recent research shows that people who exercise regularly prior to having a stroke suffer less from an attack than those who don’t.  The Ischemic Stroke Genetics Study in the USA, involving 673 first-time stroke patients, showed that those who had engaged in exercise one to three times a week prior to their stroke seemed to function better than those who were inactive;  while those who did some form of cardiovascular activity four or more times a week functioned best.  It appears that exercise helps to build up reserves that can be drawn on after a stroke.  There’s also the fact that exercise reduces the risk of having a stroke in the first place – another good reason to get off the couch and give your body a run for its money.


    Cigarette smoking is the number one controllable risk factor for heart disease.
    It only takes 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke to cause damage to the coronary arteries.
    Number of men who don’t worry about the state of their heart:  one in three
    Number of men who show it by eating fast food regularly:  one in two.
    27 Percent of women smoke.  Cigarette smoking remains the number one controllable risk factor for heart disease and is contributing to the rising death rate amongst women from cardiovascular disease.
    Heart disease kills six times as many women as breast cancer does.
    The easiest way to cu your risk for a heart attack?  Walk 3.2km a day.


Look after your heart and it will look after you.  Here are a few tips for keeping your ticker in good shape through each decade of your life:-

In your 20s  Don’t give up sports once you’ve left school.  Being part of a team will keep you motivated to stay fit.  Don’t like competitive sports?  Try cycling, running, swimming or any activity that gets your heart rate up and makes you break a sweat.  Commit to three or five hours a week.
In your 30’s  Take a look at your lifestyle and cut out anything that may be putting your heart at risk, such as smoking, drinking to excess and pushing yourself to burnout at work.  If  you’ve allowed the pressures of juggling job and family commitments to get in the way of an exercise routine, now’s the time to get back into it.
In your 40’s Your metabolism slows down and you don’t require as many kilojoules as you used to.  Keep your weight down by cutting out unhealthy trans fats (found in fried and takeaway foods, pastries and biscuits) and limit your intake of saturated fats from animal produce.  Ensure you get heart-healthy omega-3 fats by eating fish two to three times a week.
50+ Improve your cholesterol profile by increasing your fibre intake and replacing saturated fats with mono- or polyunsaturated fats (such as olive, canola or sunflower oil).  Keep your weight within a healthy range and especially watch out for excess belly fat, which places strain on the heart.

For information on heart disease visit www.heartfoundation.co.za


Having a positive attitude can help to prevent heart disease.  So concluded a study conducted by scientists of the University of Pittsburgh, involving 97,253 female participants.  Each volunteer was required to do a personality test to determine their level of optimism or pessimism, and researchers did a complete analysis of their health records to pick up signs and symptoms of heart disease.  What they found was that women at the higher end of the optimism scale had significantly lower rates of cardiovascular disease than those who were cynical or hostile.  The cynics also had higher death rates.  The study concluded that our outlook influences our coping abilities, perceptions of stress and levels of social interaction.

The above article was published in the Life magazine Summer 2009/10 which is sponsored by the Life Healthcare Group.