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World Heart Day Know the health of your heart

Know the health of your heart

Approximately 130 heart attacks and 240 strokes occur daily in South Africa*

The number one killer globally, taking more lives than cancer, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined, is cardiovascular disease (CVD)** and locally it kills an average of 225 people a day.

CVD includes all diseases of the heart and circulatory system - coronary heart disease (angina and heart attacks), heart failure, congenital heart disease and strokes.

World Heart Day 2014 is on 29 September and it’s evident that South Africans need to change their lifestyle and diet choices.

Naazneen Khan, Health and Wellness Manager at Nestlé South Africa says, “World Heart Day is about informing people of the steps they can take in order to reduce their risk of contracting this disease as well as educating them on CVD symptoms so they can seek medical attention.”

An independent survey*** conducted by Nestlé South Africa revealed that 72% of all respondents worry about their lifestyle and how it affects their heart health. The survey also uncovered that the healthy heart behaviours which respondents devote the least amount of attention to, were adequate amounts of exercise, eating less red meat and eating more fish.

“A healthy, well-balanced diet should include vegetables and fruit, with the aim of eating a combination of 5 a day,” explains Khan. “Vegetables and fruit are good sources of soluble fibre, which helps maintain healthy blood fat levels by helping reduce cholesterol absorption, and also for their high levels of antioxidants, which assist in preventing the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries. In order to further prevent cardiovascular disease, it is also important to integrate regular physical exercise into your weekly regime.”

Veggies and fruit play a hugely beneficial role in protecting the body against cardiovascular disease, yet more than 30% of respondents admit to only eating one portion of fruit and vegetables a day. Their favourite veggies are carrots (13%), spinach (12%) and butternut (11%) and interestingly 49% of respondents said they eat more vegetables than fruit, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that only 17% are eating the recommended three or more portions of vegetables a day.

Other interesting morsels the survey revealed are:

  • Almost 1 in 4 (22%) respondents don’t know that foods high in antioxidants reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • The majority do not know what ‘good’ High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (55%) and ‘bad’ Low Density Lipoprotein (LDH) cholesterol is (57%).
  • Only 6% of respondents knew that green vegetables and fruits (such as spinach, avocados, green beans and cucumbers) are good for eyes and vision function and for reducing risk of retina damage. 72% thought that orange vegetables and fruit (such as carrots and oranges) were responsible for this function.
  • Respondents claim to eat white veggies and fruit (27%) most often, followed by green (25%), yellow/orange (19%), red (14%) and blue/purple (5%).

“The survey’s overall results showed that people are aware of many of the factors affecting heart health. Now we need to set about changing behaviour patterns so that people will reap the benefits of healthier dietary and lifestyle choices,” says Khan.

With CVD increasing its grip on the South African public, Naazneen Khan shares a table of the most common CVD symptoms****, so that people can also learn to recognise the symptoms before it leads to further damage. If you have any of these symptoms, it is advisable to seek medical attention from a medical professional.

Symptoms of Cardiovascular Disease

Stroke – seek medical attention immediately Coronary heart disease (angina and heart attacks) Heart failure Congenital heart disease
Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body Chest pain or discomfort (angina) - extent of pain varies from person to person A dry, hacking cough or wheezing as a result of congested lungs Extreme tiredness and fatigue
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes Your chest may feel heavy or like your heart is being squeezed Fluid and water retention, resulting in swollen ankles, legs, and abdomen (called edema) and weight gain Excessive sweating
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination Pain under your breast bone, neck, arms, stomach or upper back areas Dizziness, confusion, fatigue, and weakness Poor appetite
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding Pain is usually felt with activity or emotion Rapid or irregular heartbeats Rapid heartbeat
Sudden severe headache with no known cause Palpitations (irregular heartbeats)
Rapid breathing

Shortness of breath

Excessive sweating
Chest pain

Shortness of breath and fatigue with activity
Blue tinge to the skin (cyanosis)

Fingernails are suddenly rounded and bulbous in shape (clubbed fingernails)

For more information on CVD, go to To find helpful tips on how to eat healthier, visit Why not test your nutrition, health and wellness knowledge using the WelNes IQ tool:


Notes to the editor


* The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa

** World Heart Federation
*** The research for this independent survey was conducted by Columinate

  • 400 participants took part in the survey, and they were unaware that the research was commissioned by Nestlé South Africa
  • Respondents of all races and ages from across the country were invited to participate

**** Information sourced from: -
National Stroke Association -

Please note that the above table contains general symptoms and is intended to be used as a guide only. As symptoms vary from person to person, please contact your healthcare professional for specific medical advice and assistance.

About Nestlé South Africa

Nestlé South Africa is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nestlé Switzerland. The company was formally registered in South Africa about 98 years ago. The first Nestlé products arrived in South Africa during the 1870s, and the company’s presence in South Africa was formally entrenched on 7 July 1916 when it registered as a company. In order to meet the demands of a growing country, local production started in 1927 with the purchase of the South African Condensed Milk Company Ltd factory in Donnybrook, and the Estcourt and Franklin factories. Nestlé South Africa also services neighbouring countries – Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia. Nestlé is committed to bringing consumers tastier, healthier choices in their product offering, and will continuously strive to become the leading Nutrition, Health and Wellness company.