For the month of September, we are exploring matters of the heart, including the importance of practising good heart-health behaviours, what symptoms to look out for, and bad health conditions that are common. To unpack this topic, we chatted with Professor Pamela Naidoo, the CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa based in Cape Town. Naidoo, together with her team, aims to reduce heart-related diseases and strokes through the work that they do.
Naidoo describes the heart as a pumping mechanism that is responsible for keeping all the other organs functioning by pumping good-quality blood to the rest of the body. In the event of blood not being pumped to a certain organ in the body, it will cease to function.
It’s all about the blood flow
In relation to the brain, which is responsible for the ability to speak, smell, hear and feel, it is dependent on good blood flow. If there is no blood flow through the brain, the cells will die, and the brain will ultimately lose its function. Good heart health is thus directly connected to good brain health, says Naidoo.
Symptoms or traits that are usually overlooked can sometimes lead to serious heart-related conditions. In younger children, it could occur when they have a high fever and might also suffer symptoms of disorientation, sweating or a sore throat. It is considered an emergency when a fever spikes to 40 degrees Celsius and over, and if not treated as such or overlooked, the child can develop rheumatic heart disease.
Keeping bad habits at bay
In the older age group of 30 to 40 years old, the practice of unhealthy food consumption, vaping, smoking tobacco, excessive alcohol drinking, and the lack of exercise narrows the arteries in the blood which impacts the flow or pumping of the blood. The blocking of blood flow can ultimately lead to heart failure, arteriosclerosis, or any other heart condition.
However, not all is lost. Bad practices can be reversed, and healthier habits can be learned and adopted, explains Naidoo. The decrease in smoking, alcohol consumption and fatty foods over a period of time can effect significant change and increase one’s life span.
In the podcast, Naidoo further discusses:
- Gender and age vulnerabilities with regard to heart health;
- Additional tips to incorporate to ensure better heart health, such as respecting one’s body, exercising, and regular checkups.
Listen to the full interview on the Health For Mzansi podcast:
Apple Podcasts: Click here to listen on any Apple device.
Google Podcasts: Click here to listen on Google Podcast.
Get the Health For Mzansi newsletter: Your bi-weekly dose of kasi health, wellness and self-care inspiration.