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THE HEART AND STROKE FOUNDATION SOUTH AFRICA
HEART DISEASE IN SOUTH AFRICA
MEDIA DATA DOCUMENT
Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town & Chronic Diseases of
Lifestyle Unit, at the Medical Research Council
Chronic Diseases of Lifestyle Unit, Medical Research Council
MORTALITY CAUSED BY HEART DISEASE .2
MORBIDITY CAUSED BY HEART DISEASE .3
LIFE-COURSE PERSPECTIVE ON HEART DISEASE AND ABSOLUTE
RISK ASSESSMENT FOR HEART DISEASE.5
STRESS AS A RISK FACTOR FOR HEART DISEASE.10
NUTRITION AND HEART DISEASE .11
TOBACCO CONTROL .14
OVERWEIGHT AND OBESITY .17
EARLY LIFE ORIGINS OF HEART DISEASE .18
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE .20
HIGH BLOOD CHOLESTEROL.25
ECONOMIC IMPACT AND COST-EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF
HEART DISEASE .27
MORTALITY CAUSED BY HEART DISEASE
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to any disease of the heart and blood vessels. The most common ones are diseases of the heart muscle, strokes, heart attacks,
heart failure and heart disease caused by high blood pressure.
A heart attack is also known as a myocardial infarction (MI). When the diseased roughened arteries of the heart become too narrow or a clot forms, blood flow to the
heart muscle is restricted. The heart muscle is left without oxygen, causing death of segment of the muscle and leaving the heart unable to pump sufficient blood to the rest of the body. This is characterised by a sudden severe chest pain that may spread down one or both arms and to the neck.
Heart failure is caused by the inability of the heart to pump blood efficiently around
the body. This occurs because of damage to the heart muscle as a result of various
diseases. The circulation becomes slow causing excess fluid to be retained in the
A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), occurs when the blood flow
to the brain is interrupted. This could either happen when a blood vessel to the brain
ruptures, causing bleeding, or becomes blocked by a blood clot. The affected brain
cells then start to die because of a lack of oxygen and other nutrients. The severity of
a stroke varies from a passing weakness or tingling in a limb to a profound paralysis, coma or death.
• Between 1997 and 2004, 195 people died per day because of some form of heart
and blood vessel disease (CVD) in South Africa (Note 1.1).
• About 33 people die per day because of a heart attack, while about 60 die per day
• For every woman that dies of a heart attack, two men die. • About 37 people die per day because of heart failure (Note 1.1). • Despite the high death rates caused by AIDS in South Africa, actuarial projections
suggest that the rate of chronic diseases, including heart disease, is also going to increase by 2010. The models suggest that chronic disease death will increase from 565 deaths per day in 2000 to 666 deaths per day in 2010 (Note 1.1).
• More than half the deaths caused by chronic diseases, including heart disease,
occur before the age of 65 years. These are premature deaths which affect the
workforce and have a major impact on the economy of the country (Notes 1.2, 1.3).
• Premature deaths caused by heart and blood vessel diseases (CVD) in people of
working age (35-64 years) are expected to increase by 41% between 2000 and 2030. The negative economic impact of this will be enormous (Note 1.4).
• The highest death rates for heart and blood vessel diseases in South Africa are
found in Indian people, followed by the coloured people, while the white and black African people have the lowest rates (Note 1.5).
• Although the white and black African people have similar rates for these diseases,
their patterns differ considerably. White people mainly reflect a pattern of death
caused by heart attacks, while the black African people reflect that of death caused by stroke, and diseases of the heart muscle and high blood pressure (Note 1.5).
Unpublished data of Professor Debbie Bradshaw, Burden of Disease Research Unit,
Bradshaw D, Groenewald P, Laubscher R, et al. Initial burden of disease estimates for
South Africa 2000. South African Medical Journal 2003; 92: 682-688.
Pestana JAX, Steyn K, Leiman A, Hartzenberg GM. The direct and indirect costs of
cardiovascular disease in South Africa in 1991. South African Medical Journal 1996; 86: 679-684.
Leeder S, Raymond S, Greenberg H. Race against time: The challenge of cardiovascular
disease in developing economies. New York: Columbia University, 2004.
This publication emphasizes that cardiovascular diseases will affect people in developing
countries at a younger age than in the developed countries, resulting in a higher death rate for these diseases.
Norman R, Bradshaw D, Schneider M, Pieterse D, Groenwald P. Revised Burden of Disease Estimates for the comparative risk factor assessment, South Africa 2000. Cape
MORBIDITY CAUSED BY HEART DISEASE
Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart muscle does not get
enough blood. This may feel like pressure or a crushing pain in the chest, which may
also occur in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. Angina is a symptom usually
aggravated by exercise and is caused when insufficient blood reaches the heart
muscle. This occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries of the heart. These changes
that occur in the arteries of the heart are known as atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries, and is caused by the
slow build up of plaque on the inside of walls of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a slow,
progressive disease that may start in childhood, and can eventually impede the blood
flow through the arteries of the brain, heart, kidneys, and the arms and legs. In the worse case scenario the blood flow to these organs can be blocked off.
Cardiomyopathy refers to diseases of the heart muscle. In cardiomyopathy, the heart
muscle becomes enlarged or abnormally thick or rigid resulting in the inability of the heart to function as an effective pump for blood to the body.
Coronary artery disease
Coronary artery disease occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart
muscle (the coronary arteries) become hardened and narrowed. The arteries harden and narrow because of build up of fatty deposits (atheroma) in the cells lining the wall of the coronary arteries. This build up is known as atherosclerosis. As these fatty deposits build up gradually, the insides of the coronary arteries get narrower and less
blood can flow through them. Eventually, blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced,
and, because blood carries much-needed oxygen, the heart muscle is not able to receive the amount of oxygen it needs. This process leads to ischaemic heart disease,
which causes damage to the heart muscle.
Morbidity refers to people who have a disease or condition but have not yet died of
Prevalence refers to the percentage of people in the population who have a condition
at any point in time.
Rheumatic heart disease
Rheumatic heart disease is a condition in which permanent damage to heart valves
between the chambers of the heart occurs. The heart valve is damaged by a disease
process called rheumatic fever that begins with a throat infection caused by
streptococcus bacteria. These malfunctioning heart valves eventually places stress on the heart muscle and a person may require an operation to replace the diseased heart valve.
• The prevalence and treatment status of common heart conditions, such as
ischaemic heart disease, heart failure, rheumatic heart disease, and diseases of the heart muscle, the heart valves and heart disease caused by high blood pressure is unknown in South Africa. However, the available data suggest that these conditions are poorly managed (notes 2.1-2.6).
• A plan has recently been launched to control rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart
• No data exist on the number of heart attacks or strokes that South Africans suffer
from daily. However, there is a rule of thumb suggesting that for one death caused by a heart attack or stroke three persons will survive such an event, this suggests
that ± 130 heart attacks and ± 240 strokes occur daily in South Africa.
Commerford P, Bongani M. An appropriate research agenda for heart disease in Africa. The Lancet 2006; 367: 1884-1886.
Mayosi BM, Robertson K, Volmink J, et al. The Drakensberg declaration on the control of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in Africa. South African Medical Journal
Sliwa K, Damasceno A, Mayosi BM. Epidemiology and etiology of cardiomyopathy in
Africa. Circulation 2005; 112: 3577-3583.
Commerford PJ. Valvular heart disease in South Africa in 2005. South African Medical
The prevalence of rheumatic heart disease is not known in South Africa or elsewhere in
Africa. The only recent study published in a developing country was done in Uttar Pradesh, a province of India. The prevalence of rheumatic heart disease was found to be 0.5 per 1000 children aged 4-18 years.
Misra M, Mittal M, Singh RK, et al. Prevalence of rheumatic heart disease in school-going children of Eastern Uttar Pradesh. Indian Heart Journal 2007; 59: 42-43. [On
line]. Available: http://indianheartjournal.com/janfeb2007/08_ihj240.html
Robertson KA, Volmink JA, Mayosi BM. Towards a uniform plan for the control of
rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in Africa: The Awareness Surveillance Advocacy Prevention (ASAP) Programme. South African Medical Journal 2006; 96: 241-
LIFE-COURSE PERSPECTIVE ON HEART DISEASE AND ABSOLUTE
RISK ASSESSMENT FOR HEART DISEASE
Life course of chronic diseases
Although most heart attacks, heart failure and other chronic diseases usually only
occur in middle-aged and older people, the influences of risk factors can start before
birth and will have an impact throughout life. Therefore, the processes for prevention
and management of heart disease must start early and be present throughout life. Scheme to illustrate the life-course perspective on heart disease and other chronic
THE LIFE-LONG IMPACT OF HEART AND OTHER CHRONIC DISEASES AND THEIR RISK
PREVENTION PREVENTION COST-EFFECTIVE
HIGH RISK PATIENTS
HIGH RISK PATIENTS
- Heart attack
¾ In the womb
- Heart failure
¾ Tobacco use
¾ Lack of
- Kidney failure
High blood cholesterol
- Chronic lung
and other fats
The impact of many risk factors on the magnitude of risk for heart
In people who have many risk factors, the chance of suffering a heart attack grows
exponentially with each additional risk factor. This principle can be illustrated by
considering a person with three risk factors. The chance of suffering a heart attack
does not increase by 3+3+3 equalling 9, but increases by 3x3x3 equalling 27, thus the risk increases exponentially with multiple risk factors.
The absolute risk for heart disease in the presence of more than one
To assess the true level of risk for a heart attack in any person, the impact of all the
risk factors present in that person needs to be assessed. Such absolute risk
assessment considers the multiplication effect of risk factors to identify those who are
at highest risk for getting a heart attack. This implies that the risk for a heart attack
in a person with modest levels of many risk factors can be higher than that in a
person who has only one risk factor at a very high level.
• The known risk factors for a heart attack are present in all South Africans and have
been shown to occur in the black population groups as well. (notes 3.1, 3.2).
• Effective prevention of heart disease should start early in life (even before birth)
and should continue throughout a person’s life (notes 3.3-3.7).
• Effective prevention of heart attacks should target the whole population. Every
opportunity via the media and every regulation are needed to support people to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their lifespan (notes 3.3-3.7).
• People should also be informed about the early signs and symptoms of risk factors
and heart disease to enable them to seek the necessary help to diagnose their conditions. When treatment is started early, serious long-term complications can be prevented (notes 3.3-3.7).
• Seventy five percent of cardiovascular events (heart attack or stroke) occur in 5%-
10% of people who have suffered a previous event or in persons who have many risk factors (notes 3.8, 3.9).
• People should be motivated to ask for an absolute heart attack risk assessment. An
absolute risk assessment approach moves away from treating only one risk factor at a time. This involves promoting a healthy lifestyle and addressing all the risk
factors present in a person. This approach can have an enormous impact on heart disease in a population and is very cost-effective (notes 3.10-3.15).
• To assess the absolute risk for a heart attack, a person’s age, gender, smoking
status, blood pressure level, diabetes status and total blood cholesterol level should be considered (notes 3.10-3.15).
• The calculations of absolute risk for heart attacks using the risk factors mentioned
in the Scheme above are now available and can easily be done at a clinic or doctor’s practice (notes 3.10-3.15).
Steyn K, Sliwa-Hahnle K, Hawkins S, Commerford P, Onin C, Ounpuu S, Yusuf S. Risk factors associated with Myocardial Infarction in Africa. The INTERHEART Africa Study.
Loock M, Steyn K, Becker P, Fourie JM. Coronary heart diseases and their risk factors in
black South Africans: A case-control study. Ethnicity & Disease 2006; 16(4): 872-879.
Steyn K. Overview and conclusions; A perspective on dealing with chronic diseases of lifestyle in South Africa. In: Steyn K, Fourie J, Temple N (eds). Chronic Diseases of
Lifestyle in South Africa: 1995-2005, Technical Report, Cape Town: South African Medical Research Council, 2006. [On line]. Available:
World Health Organization. Prevention chronic diseases: A vital investment: WHO global
report. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2005.
Epping-Jordan J, Galea G, Tutuitonga C, Beaglehole R. Preventing chronic diseases:
taking stepwise actions. The Lancet 2006; 266: 1667-1671.
World Health Organization. Innovative care for chronic conditions: Building blocks for actions. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2002.
Yach D, Hawkes C, Epping-Jordan JE, Steyn K. Chronic Diseases and Risks. In: Merson MH, Black RE, Mills AJ (eds). International Public Health: Disease, Programs, Systems
and Policies. 2nd Edition, Chapter 6. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers Inc., 2005: 273.
Haq IU, Ramsay LE, Yeo WW, Jackson PR Wallis EJ. Is the Framingham risk function valid for Northern European populations? A comparison of methods for estimating
absolute coronary risk in high risk men. Heart 1999; 81: 40-46.
Tosteson AN, Weinstein MC, Hunink GM, Mittleman MA, Williams LW, Goldman PA, Goldman L. Cost-effectiveness of populationwide educational approaches to reduce
serum cholesterol levels. Circulation 1997; 95: 24-30.
3.10 Jackson R, Barham P, Bills J, Birch T, McLennan L, MacMahon S, Maling T. Management
of raised blood pressure in New Zealand: a discussion document. British Medical Journal 1993; 307: 107-110.
3.11 Jackson R, Lawes CMM, Bennet DA, Milne RJ, Rodgers A.Treatment with drugs to lower
blood pressure and blood cholesterol based on an individual’s absolute cardiovascular
3.12 D’Agostino RB, Grundy S, Sullivan LM, Wilson P; CHD Risk Prediction Group. Validation
of the Framingham Coronary Heart Disease Prediction Scores. Result of a multiple
Ethnic Groups Investigation. Journal of the American Medical Association 2001; 286: 180-187.
3.13 Anderson KM, Odell PM, Wilson PWF, Kannel WB. Cardiovascular disease risk profiles
American Heart Journal. 1990; 121: 293-298.
3.14 Wilson PWF, D’Agostino RB, Levy D, Belanger AM, Silbershatz H, Kannel WB. Prediction
of coronary heart disease using risk factor categories. Circulation. 1998; 97(18): 1837-1847.
3.15 Gaziano TA, Steyn K, Cohen DJ, Weinstein MC, Opie L. Cost-Effectiveness analysis of
Hypertension Guidelines in South Africa. Absolute Risk versus Blood Pressure Level.
Osteoporosis is a disease that thins and weakens the bones to the point that they
become fragile and break easily. This condition is caused by the loss of calcium and is
A random sample in a survey or study
A random sample is a group of subjects (a sample) chosen in a statistically correct manner from a larger group (a population). The statistics calculated from the data
collected in the random sample usually represents that found in the population as a whole.
A sedentary lifestyle refers to one where minimal physical activity (exercise) is
present. There are no health benefits because of this lack of regular physical activity.
• Most South Africans are couch potatoes, i.e. they follow a sedentary lifestyle. • Evidence is very strong that a sedentary lifestyle causes heart disease along with
its risk factors (overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and abnormal blood fats, such as high blood cholesterol) (notes 4.1-4.7).
• A sedentary lifestyle is also associated with breast cancer, colon cancer,
osteoporosis, stress, anxiety, depression and ageing less healthily (notes 4.1-4.7).
• In South Africa in 2003, 62% of men and 48% of women 15 years or older
followed a sedentary lifestyle (notes 4.8, 4.9).
• In 2003, 33% of South African adolescent boys and 42% of girls had a sedentary
• Viewing TV for more than 3 hours per day was recorded by 22% of boys and 27%
of girls. These inactive children were also overweight when compared to their active counterparts (note 4.10).
• It is estimated that 3% of men and 4% of women aged 30 years or older who die,
die as a result lack of physical activity(notes 4.11).
• Consequently in 2000 20 men and 26 women, 30 years or older, died per day
because of a lack of regular physical activity (notes 4.11).
• There is strong evidence that a moderate amount of regular physical exercise
provides health benefits and protects against the ravages of a sedentary lifestyle (notes 4.1-4.7).
• Pooled data of many studies showed that populations that were involved in
physical activity had about half the amount of heart attacks and angina compared to inactive populations (notes 4.1-4.7).
• Recommendations for health benefits suggest all adults should do at least 30
minutes or more of moderate intensity physical activity on most days. This either
should happen in a single session or ‘accumulated’ in multiple bouts, each lasting at least 10 minutes a time (note 4.12).
• Sixty minutes of daily physical activity may be required to prevent weight gain
• Brisk walking, swimming, dancing or participating in non-competitive sports is
• In 2004, at the Fifty Seventh World Health Assembly, member countries endorsed
the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and
Health calling on all countries to promote physical activity (notes 4.12, 4.13).
• The youth fitness and wellness charter was launched in October 2004 (note 4.8).
• A guide for population-based approaches to increase levels of physical activity was
published by the WHO, which includes a request to member states to celebrate a “Move for Health Day” on 10 May of each year (note 4.13).
• “Vuka South Africa – move for your health” was launched in May 2005 (note 4.14).
United States Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity and health: a report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA, Centers of Disease Control and
Bull FC, Armstrong TP, Dixon T, Ham S, Neiman A, Pratt M. Physical Inactivity. In: M
Ezzati, AD Lopez, A Rodgers & CJL Murray (eds). Comparative Quantification of Health Risks: Global and Regional Burden of Disease Attributable to Selected Major Risk
Factors. Volume 1, Chapter 10. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2004: 731-883.
Kesaniemi YK, Danforth E Jr, Jensen MD, Kopelman PG, Lefèbvre P, Reeder BA. Dose-
response issues concerning physicial activity and health: an evidence-based symposium. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2001; 33(6 Suppl): S351-358.
Grundy SM, Blackburn G, Higgins M, Lauer R, Perri MG, Ryan R. Physical activity in the
prevention and treatment of obesity and its comorbidities. Roundtable Consensus Statement. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 1999 31: S502-S508.
Powell KE, Thompson PD, Caspersen CJ, Ford ED. Physical activity and the incidence of coronary attack and death rates. British Heart Journal 1990; 63: 325-334.
Fletcher GF, Blair SN, Paffenbarger RS, et al. American Heart Association medical/scientific statement of exercise. Circulation 1992; 86: 340-344.
King AC, Taylor CB, Haskell WL, De Busk RF. Influence of regular aerobic exercise on psychological health: a randomized, controlled trial of healthy middle-aged adults.
The first national survey of physical activity was conducted as part of the adult health module of the Second Demographic and Health Survey of South Africa (SADHS) in a
random sample of people, 15 years and older. The internationally validated Global Physical Activity Questionnaire (GPAQ) was used. The National Department of Health
will publish the results in their Technical Report of this Survey.
Adult Health Risk Profiles. In: Department of Health & South African Medical Research
Council. 2007. Second South Africa Demographic and Health Survey 2003. Chapter 13. (Full Report). Pretoria: DOH. (In press).
4.10 A national youth risk behaviour survey was conducted in 2002 in which young people
aged 13-19 years reported on their physical activity and television viewing patterns: Reddy SP, Panday S, Swart D, Jinabhai CC, Amosun SL, James S, et al. Umthenthe
Uhlaba Usamila – The South African Youth Risk Behaviour Survey 2002. Cape Town:
South African Medical Research Council, 2003. [On line]. Available: http://www.mrc.ac.za/healthpromotion/reports.htm. [2005, 9 November].
4.11 Using the prevalence of a sedentary lifestyle observed in South Africa and the measured
impact of such a lifestyle from international studies a statistical estimate could be
calculated for the impact of a sedentary lifestyle on deaths in South Africa: Lambert EV, Joubert J, Norman R, Groenewald P, Bradshaw D, Schneider M, Bull F;
and the South African Comparative Risk Assessment Collaborating Group. Estimating the burden of disease of physical inactivity in South Africa in 2000. South African
4.12 After a number of previous requests by the World Health Assembly meeting in 2000 and
2002 the final resolution was taken in May 2004: Resolution WHA57.17. Global Strategy on diet, physical activity and health. In: Fifty-Seventh World Health Assembly, Geneva 17-22 May 2004. Resolutions and decisions,
annexes. (WHA57/2004/REC/1) Geneva: World Health Organization, 2004: 38-55.
4.13 WHO. A guide for population-based approaches to increase levels of physical activity:
implementation of the WHO global strategy on diet, physical activity and health. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2007.
4.14 South Africa responded to the WHO resolution by the launch of the “Vuka South Africa-
Move for your Health Campaign” This is an initiative by the National Departments of Health, Education and Sport and Recreation and private companies, tertiary institutions
STRESS AS A RISK FACTOR FOR HEART DISEASE
Depression is feeling sad, blue or down and includes losing interest in things, feeling tired all the time, gaining or losing weight, trouble falling asleep, trouble concentrating, and thinking of death or feeling worthless.
Feeling in control
This is the self-perceived ability to control life circumstances.
High general stress
High general stress is self-reported regular and/or ongoing levels of stress at work
• There is very little international data and no specific South African data published
on the association between stress or depression and heart disease. However, the available data suggest that stress may be related to heart attacks (note 5.1).
• Data from 52 countries showed that those who had had their first heart attack
reported suffering of high general stress and depression 55% more frequently than people of the same age and gender who had not had a heart attack (notes 5.2-5.6).
• Similar data showed that those who felt most in control of their own lives had 32%
fewer first heart attacks than those who felt least in control of their own lives (notes 5.2-5.6).
Hemingway H, Marmot M. Evidence based cardiology: psychosocial factors in the
aetiology and prognoses: systematic review of prospective cohort studies. British Medical Journal 1999; 318: 1460-1467.
Rosengren A, Hawkins S. Ounpuu S, Sliwa K, Zubaid M, Almahmeed WA, Blackett N, Sitthi-amorn C, Sato H, Yusuf S; INTERHEART investigators. Association of psychosocial
risk factors with risk of acute myocardial infarction in 11119 cases and 13648 controls from 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study. The Lancet 2004; 364: 953-963.
Iso H, Date C, Yamamota A, et al. Perceived mental stress and mortality from cardiovascular disease among Japanese men and women: the Japan Collaborative
Study for Evaluation for Cancer Risk sponsored by Monbusho (JACC Study). Circulation 2002; 106: 1229-1236.
Rosengren A, Tibblin G, Wilhelmsen L. Self-perceived psychological stress and incidence of coronary artery disease in middle-aged men. American Journal Cardiology 1991; 68:
Bobak M, Pikhart H, Rose R, Hertzman C, Marmot M. Socioeconomic factors, material inequalities, and perceived control in self-rated health: cross-sectional data from seven
post-communist countries. Social Science & Medicine 1997; 51: 1343-1350.
Marmot M, Stanfeld S. Stress and the heart: psychosocial pathways to coronary heart
disease. London: British Medical Journal Books, 2001.
NUTRITION AND HEART DISEASE
Cholesterol in food
Cholesterol in food is frequently confused with cholesterol in the blood. Foods that are
high in cholesterol include fatty red meat, eggs and animal fats such as butter and
cream. Consuming plenty of food with high levels of saturated fat and trans fatty acids
along with foods high in cholesterol results in an increase of cholesterol in the blood,
which increases the risk for a heart attack.
The prudent diet
This is the diet recommended to promote heart health, and involves having a varied eating pattern, while reducing total fat intake, particularly saturated fats from animal products. This can be attained by limiting the intake of (fatty) red meat and giving
preference to fish, chicken, low-fat dairy products and legumes as sources of protein. The prudent diet advocates consuming more unrefined carbohydrates, such as whole grain products, plus focusing on more fruits and vegetables for sufficient vitamins, minerals (such as potassium) and fibre. Low-fat dairy products are essential for sufficient calcium intake. Salt and alcohol intake should be moderate.
Types of fatty acids
Fatty acids are part of all fats and oils in food and in the body. Some fatty acids promote heart health if consumed in limited amounts while others have a detrimental effect by increasing blood cholesterol levels. The detrimental fatty acids are those in
high concentrations in hard animal fats, such as fat in meat, butter and cream and are known as saturated fatty acids. With the discovery that saturated fats have adverse effects on blood fats, people turned to plant oils as a safe replacement for the saturated animal fats. More recently, it has also been found that harder fats (such as some brick margarine) contain trans
fatty acids which are formed during the process
of partial hydrogenation (hardening) of the vegetable fats. Trans
fats also raise cholesterol levels and hence should be avoided. It is important to note that tub (softer) margarines are manufactured in such a way that they contain virtually no trans
fatty acids. The healthier fats that tend to reduce blood cholesterol levels are found mostly in plant oils such as sunflower, canola and olive oils. These are called
polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fatty acids.
• In South Africa, nutritional surveys have shown that people living in cities
frequently consume a diet, which is higher in fat, refined carbohydrates and added sugar. This diet may be regarded less healthy when
compared to that of people living in rural areas and who follow a more traditional diet (notes 6.1-6.4).
• The following undesirable trends have often been found in these diets:
1. A poor intake of fruit and vegetables. 2. A high intake of plant and animal fat, including that of high trans
fatty acids. 3. Insufficient intake of milk and other dairy products. 4. Overall increases in the calorie/kilojoule intake, which lead to increasing
5. A high and increasing alcohol intake. 6. A low fibre intake because of a low intake of fruit, vegetables and legumes
• The daily kilocalorie (kcal) intake per person in South Africa has increased from
2600 kcal per day in 1962 to 2900 kcal per day in 2001 (notes 6.5-6.7).
• The daily intake of vegetable oils per person nearly doubled from 25 g in 1962 to
• The daily intake of protein increased from 68 g in 1962 to 79 g per day in 2001
• Fruit and vegetable intake was 185 g/day in 1962 and 220 g/day in 2001. The
amount consumed in 2001 was far below the recommended amount of 400 g/day;
the latter is equivalent to five portions of fruit or vegetables per day (notes 6.5-6.7).
• South Africans generally consume more salt (sodium) than the recommended
maximum of 5 g salt/day. A high salt and low potassium and calcium intake have also been found to contribute to high blood pressure. Potassium intake has been
found to be below the recommended dietary intake, mainly because of an overall low intake of fruits and vegetables (notes 6.8-6.10).
• Apart from table salt and flavour enhancers, bread and cereals are the major
contributors to total sodium intake from processed food in South Africans. Bread provides the greatest contribution to total dietary sodium intake (note 6.11).
• Other important food sources of salt and fat include meat products (boerewors,
meat pies, ham, polony, viennas, salami, biltong and other sausages) as well as soup powders and brick margarine (note 6.11).
• The practice of adding flavour enhancers or soup powders to staple foods, such as
maize meal, during preparation is common and adds to the high salt intake (note
• The salt content of bread in South Africa has remained higher than in many other
countries. It has been noted that 3 - 4 slices of bread with 30 g of margarine provide 2.3 g salt – more than a third of the maximum recommended daily intake of salt.
• South Africans and the food industry are not doing enough to reduce salt in their
diet or to increase potassium intake. A reduction in salt intake and an increase in potassium have beneficial effects for reducing the risk of CVD (note 6.12, 6.13).
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These data are derived from the Food and Agricultural Organisation’s food balance sheets and based on the total amount of food consumed by people in a country. This is a very crude estimate of food intake.
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6.10 Maseko MJ, Majana,HO, Milne J, Norton GR, Woodiwiss AJ. Salt intake in an urban,
developing South African community. Cardiovascular Journal of South Africa 2006; 17:
6.11 Charlton KE, Steyn K, Levitt NS, Zulu JV, Jonathan D, Veldman FJ, Nel JH. Diet and
blood pressure in South Africa: intake of foods containing sodium, potassium, calcium
and magnesium in three ethnic groups. Nutrition 2005; 21: 39-50.
6.12 Cook NR, Cutler JA Obarzanek E, Buring JE, Rexrode KM, Kumanyika SK, Appel LJ,
Whelton PK. Long term effects of dietary sodium reduction on cardiovascular disease outcomes: observational follow-up of the trials of hypertension prevention (TOHP).
British Medical Journal 2007; 334(7599): 885. [On line]. Available:
6.13 Geleijnse JM, Kok FJ, Grobbee DE. Blood pressure response to changes in sodium and
potassium intake: a meta-regression analyses of randomised trials. Journal of Human Hypertension 2003; 17: 471-480.
TOBACCO CONTROL IN SOUTH AFRICA
Nicotine is the major addictive substance in tobacco products and the most addictive
Passive smoking is the inhaling of tobacco smoke where other people are smoking,
Smokeless tobacco products
These are tobacco products that are not smoked but used in any other form, e.g. chewing tobacco or snuff.
Tobacco-related death rate
This rate is the number of people per 100 000 in the population, who die per year
because of tobacco use.
• Nicotine is the most addictive substance known to man. • Smoking cigarettes or any other tobacco products is lethal and will kill half the
people before the age of 60 years if they start smoking at a young age and continue throughout their adult life (notes 7.1-7.3).
• There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco products; the use of smokeless
tobacco or passive smoking exposes a person to the risk of similar diseases as those who smoke tobacco (notes 7.1-7.3).
• Tobacco users die of various diseases before their time, but most die because of
CVD (stroke and heart attack) followed by chronic lung diseases, such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema as well as lung cancer (notes 7.1-7.3).
• Twelve percent of men and 4% of women, aged 30 years or older who died in
2000, died as a result of tobacco related diseases. (note 7.4).
• For men, 30 years or older in 2000, the highest tobacco-related death rate was
found in coloureds (417/100 000), followed by Africans (279/100 000) and Indians (276/100 000), with the lowest rate in the whites (215/100 000) (note 7.4).
• For women, 30 years or older in 2000, the tobacco-related death rate was much
lower than for men. The highest rate was also found in coloureds (200/100 000), followed by whites (104/100 000), Africans (36/100 000) and Indians (34/100 000) (note 7.4).
• Lung cancer rates followed the pattern of smoking rates in populations by about 10
years. Currently the highest lung cancer rates in South Africa are found in coloured men and women, reflecting their high smoking rates (note 7.5).
• As Western countries instituted strong tobacco control policies that resulted in
declining smoking rates, tobacco companies progressively targeted developing countries to expand their markets (note 7.6).
• The global threat to health caused by tobacco use prompted 168 of the World
Health Organization’s member states to adopt the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on 21st May 2003. The South African Government ratified its commitment to the treaty on the 16th June 2003 and by June 2007, 147 other countries had followed suit (note 7.7).
• In South Africa, the first ‘Tobacco Products Control Act of 1993’ was signed, which
initiated many steps towards effective tobacco control policies. The ‘Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act of 1999’ signed by President Nelson Mandela, created one of the most effective tobacco control policies in the world. Further amendments have been enacted in 2007 to ensure optimal tobacco control in the country (notes 7.8, 7.9).
• The impact of the tobacco control policies was dramatic. In South Africans, 15
years and older, the smoking prevalence decreased from 32% in 1993 to 24% in 2003 (notes 7.10-7.11).
• The largest reduction in smoking between 1993 and 2003 occurred in men, African
and coloured people, as well as in those with limited education and a low income (notes 7.10-7.11).
• The lowest rates of quitting occurred in women, white people, those with a
secondary education level and households with a high income (notes 7.10-7.11).
• Of particular concern is the high prevalence of smoking (46%) among pregnant
coloured women. Not only do these women have low birth-weight babies, but they also suffer many complications of pregnancy that can be life threatening to both
• Although South Africa has proven the benefit of comprehensive tobacco control
policies, there are still major challenges to reduce tobacco use in the country. Implementation of the regulations of the tobacco control laws needs to be improved, and those groups, such as coloured pregnant women, with high smoking
Peto R. Smoking and death: the past 40 years and the next 40. British Medical Journal 1994; 309: 937-939.
Ezzati M, Lopez A. Smoking and oral tobacco use. In: M Ezzati, AD Lopez, A Rodgers &
CJL Murray (eds). Comparative Quantification of Health Risks: Global and Regional Burden of Disease Attributable to Selected Major Risk Factors. Volume 1, Chapter 11.
Geneva: World Health Organization, 2004: 497-596.
Peto R, Lopez AD, Boreham J, Thun M, Heath C Jr. Mortality from tobacco in developed countries: indirect estimation from national vital statistics. The Lancet 1992; 339:
Using the prevalence rates of smoking determined in the first SADHS survey in 1998,
and the measured impact of tobacco use from international studies, a statistical estimate could be calculated for the impact of tobacco use on tobacco related deaths in
South Africa: Groenewald P, Vos T, Norman R, Laubscher R, Van Walbeek C, Saloojee Y, Sitas F,
Bradshaw D. Estimating the burden of disease due to smoking in South Africa, 2000. S Afr Med J. 2007;97:
Bradshaw D, Schneider M, Norman R, Bourne D. Mortality patterns of chronic disease of
lifestyle in South Africa. In: Steyn K, Fourie J, Temple N (eds). Chronic Diseases of Lifestyle in South Africa: 1995-2005, Technical Report, Cape Town: South African
Medical Research Council, 2006. [On line]. Available:
Thousands of tobacco industry documents have been made available on the internet because of court cases in the United States of America. These documents illustrate
details of tobacco industry marketing initiatives, political strategies and cigarette design research. Some details of their activities and plans in South Africa have become known. Saloojee Y. Tobacco control in South Africa. In: Steyn K, Fourie J, Temple N (eds).
Chronic Diseases of Lifestyle in South Africa: 1995-2005, Technical Report, Cape Town: South African Medical Research Council, 2006. [On line]. Available:
World Health Organization. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, 2003. [On
line]. Available: http://www.who.int/tobacco/framework/WHO_FCTC_english.pdf.
The Tobacco Products Control Act, Act No. 83, 1993. Government Gazette. 1993.
Tobacco Products Amendment Act. Act No 12, 1999. Government Gazette 406 (No.19962), Cape Town, 1999.
7.10 Van Walbeek CP. The economics of tobacco control in South Africa. PhD Thesis.
University of Cape Town, Applied Fiscal Research Centre, School of Economics, 2005. An excellent thesis from the School of Economics at the University of Cape Town,
showed South Africa’s tobacco legislation has achieved spectacular results in reducing smoking rates, increasing the government’s income from tobacco taxes, while the poor
and the young benefit most by the large reduction in smoking rates from the price increases of tobacco.
7.11 Van Walbeek C. Recent trends in smoking prevalence in South Africa – some evidence
from AMPS data. South African Medical Journal 2002; 92(6): 468-472.
7.12 Steyn K, Everett K, Odendaal H. Smoking during pregnancy. MRC Policy brief; No. 3,
OVERWEIGHT AND OBESITY
Body mass index (BMI)
This index reflects a person’s weight in terms of his/her height. This is defined as the weight in kilogram divided by height in meters squared (kg/m2).
A person is obese when his/her BMI is 30 kg/m2 or higher.
A person is overweight when his/her BMI is between 25 kg/m2 and below 30 kg/m2.
• Overweight and obesity are simply caused by consuming more kilojoules than the
body needs, while simultaneously doing insufficient physical exercise to burn the extra kilojoules. The excess kilojoules are then stored as fat in the body.
• Overweight and obesity are specific risk factors for developing hypertension,
diabetes and heart disease. There is also a strong indication that obesity is
associated with osteoarthritis and a number of cancers (note 8.1).
• The International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD) has specified obesity
as a disease in its own right (note 8.1).
• In 1998, 56% of women and 29% of men, aged 15 years or older in South Africa,
were overweight or obese. These high rates had not changed by 2003 (notes 8.2,
• For men the obesity rate was the highest in whites (18%), followed by Indians and
coloureds (8%) and then by Africans (6%) (note 8.2).
• For women the differences among the groups were much smaller with the highest
rates in Africans (32%), followed by coloureds (26%), whites (23%) and then
• Urban people had higher weights than people who were living outside the cities
• Some of the poorer South African provinces had high prevalence rates for
overweight and/or obesity, with the lowest rate observed in Limpopo (44% of women and 22% of men) (notes 8.2, 8.3).
• Very few African women (16%) considered themselves overweight, while 59%
were overweight or obese. In contrast, 54% of white women thought they were overweight, while 49% were in fact overweight or obese (note 8.2).
• In a national survey in children 1-8 years 17% were overweight and 5% were
obese in 1999. However, in a deep rural community in Limpopo among children
aged 3-10 years, only 2.5% of boys and 4.3% of girls were overweight (note 8.4 and 8.5).
• It is estimated that of all deaths in people 30 years or older, a high BMI
contributed to 4% of the total male and 10% of the total female deaths in 2000 (note 8.6).
• Consequently, it is estimated that in people 30 years or older, 32 men and 68
women died per day because of the impact of a high BMI (note 8.6).
• In men 30 years or older, most deaths caused by a high BMI occurred in the age
group 45-59 years and then declined with increasing age. In women, deaths caused by a high BMI peaked in the age group 60-69 years and continued to take a high toll in the older age groups (note 8.6).
• Losing weight is challenging, but possible with reduced kilojoule intake, regular
physical exercise and an understanding and management of the underlying
emotional and cultural factors that contribute to overeating.
• The current fad of recommending surgery to address obesity for large numbers of
South Africans is something that meets with great disapprovement. This is a very risky procedure. Therefore, it should only be considered for morbidly obese people in exceptional circumstances.
James WPT, Jackson-Leach R, Mhurchu CN, Kalamara E, Shayeghi M, Rigby NJ, Nishida
C, Rodgers A. Overweight and obesity (high body mass index). In: M Ezzati, AD Lopez, A Rodgers & CJL Murray (eds). Comparative Quantification of Health Risks: Global and
Regional Burden of Disease Attributable to Selected Major Risk Factors. Volume 1, Chapter 8. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2004: 497-596.
These data are from the first South African Demographic and Health survey (SADHS)
conducted in 1998 in a random sample of about 14 000 South Africans. The second SADHS survey was conducted in 2003.
Puoane TR, Steyn K, Bradshaw D, Laubscher R, Fourie JM, Lambert V, Mbananga N. Obesity in South Africa: the South African demographic and health survey. Obesity
Monyeki KD, van Lenthe FJ, Steyn NP. Obesity: does it occur in African children in a
rural community in South Africa. International Journal of Epidemiology 1999; 28: 287-292.
Steyn NP, Labadarios D, Maunder E, Nel J, Lombard C, Directors of the NFCS.
Secondary anthropometric data analyses of the National Food Consumption Survey in South Africa: The double burden. Nutrition 2005;21:4-13.
Joubert J, Norman R, Bradshaw D, Goedecke JH, Steyn NP, Puoane T, and the South African Comparative Risk Assessment Collaborating Group. Estimating the burden of
disease associated with excess bodyweight in South Africa in 2000. South African Medical Journal 2007;97:
EARLY LIFE ORIGINS OF HEART DISEASE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Catch-up growth refers to low birth-weight babies that grow fast after birth and therefore tend to become overweight as young children.
Foetal origins of adult disease (Barker hypothesis)
This phenomenon suggests that babies with low birth weight tend to develop risk factors, such as overweight, high blood pressure and abnormal blood glucose
metabolism early in life. They will develop chronic diseases, including heart disease, more often than babies with a normal birth weight do when they become adults.
Stunting develops when children do not receive sufficient, nutritious food while they
are growing up. Therefore, they do not reach their full potential height and end up
being shorter than other children of the same age. This is an indicator of long standing
• Low birth-weight babies are not only at risk of developing complications soon after
birth, but tend to develop risk factors for heart disease at an early age (notes 9.1-9.3).
• Mothers who consume insufficient food during pregnancy tend to have low birth-
weight babies. This occurs frequently in the poorer sectors of society and in developing countries (notes 9.1-9.3).
• Low birth weight is also caused by smoking during pregnancy. This occurs
frequently in the coloured community in South Africa (notes 9.4, 9.5).
• Children born in Soweto and Johannesburg in 1990, who participated in the Birth-
to-Twenty (BTT) study, were found to have higher blood pressures at age 5 years if they had a low birth weight (note 9.6).
• Children, participating in the same BTT study, who had low birth weight had
abnormal glucose metabolism at age 7 years, suggesting they were prone to developing diabetes in later life (note 9.7).
• Children presenting with catch-up growth had the most risk factors for heart
disease compared to those with normal birth weight and normal growth patterns after birth (note 9.6).
• It was also found that the children participating in the BTT study who had a low
birth weight and remained small by the age of one, had weaker bones at age 10 years than 10-year-old children with a normal birth weight and growth at one year (note 9.8).
• In a national survey in 2800 children, 20% of the children were stunted and more
overweight than children who had reached their full potential height. Stunting in adolescent girls aged 10-15 years from the Northwest province was associated with increased fat stores (notes 9.9, 9.10).
• In Cape Town young adults aged 20 years who had low birth weights, had higher
blood pressures than those with normal birth weights at the same age (note 9.11).
• Women can prevent bearing low birth-weight babies by following a well-balanced
diet and avoiding smoking during pregnancy. This can contribute towards preventing heart disease and other chronic diseases in the next generation (note 9.12).
Barker DJP, Osmond C, Golding J, Kuh D, Wadsworth ME. Growth in utero, BP in
childhood and adult life and mortality from cardiovascular disease. British Medical Journal 1989; 298: 564-567.
Barker DJP, Hales CN, Fall CHD, Osmond C Phipps K, Clark PMS. Type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and hyperlipidaemia (syndrome X: relation
to reduced fetal growth.) Diabetologia 1993; 36: 62-67.
Law CM, Shiell AW. Is BP inversely related to birth weight? The strength of evidence
from a systematic review of the literature. Journal of Hypertension 1996; 14: 935-941.
Steyn K, Yach D, Stander I, Fourie JM. Smoking in urban pregnant women in South
Africa. South African Medical Journal 1997; 87: 460-463.
Steyn K, de Wet T, Saloojee Y, Saloojee H, Cameron N, Yach D. The influence of
maternal cigarette smoking, snuff use and passive smoking on birth weight: The Birth to Ten study. The Journal of Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology. 2006; 20: 90-99.
Levitt NS, Steyn K, De Wet T, Morrell C, Edwards PR, Ellison GTH, Cameron N. An
inverse relation between blood pressure and birth weight among 5-year-old children from Soweto, South Africa (Birth-to-Ten study). Journal of Epidemiology and
Crowther NJ, Cameron N, Trusler J, Gray IP. Association between poor glucose
tolerance and rapid weight gain in seven year old children. Diabetologia. 1998; 41: 1163-1167.
Vidulich L, Norris SA, Cameron N, Pettifor JM. Differences in bone size and bone mass between black and white 10-year-old South African children. Osteoporosis International 2006; 17(3): 433-440.
9.96 Steyn NP, Labadarios D, Maunder E, Nel J, Lombard C. Directors of the National Food
consumption Survey. Secondary anthropometric data analyses of the National Food
Consumption Survey in South Africa: double burden. Nutrition 2005; 21: 4-13.
9.10 Mukkuddem-Petersen J, Kruger HS. Association between stunting and overweight
among 10-15 year old children in the North West Province of South Africa: the THUSA BANA Study. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders 2004;
9.11 Levitt NS, Lambert EV, Woods D, Seckl JR. Impaired glucose tolerance and elevated BP
in low birth weight, non-obese, young South African adults: early programming of
corisol axis. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2000; 85:4611-4618.
9.12 Stein AD, Wang M, Ramirez-Zea M, Flores R, Grajeda R, Melgar P, Ramakrishnan U,
Martorell R. Exposure to a nutrition supplementation intervention in early childhood and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in adulthood: Evidence from Guatamala.
American Journal of Epidemiology 2006; 164: 1160-1170.
10 HIGH BLOOD PRESURE
Blood pressure (BP) is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries.
Blood pressure is at its highest when the heart muscle contracts, pumping the blood
to all parts of the body. This is called systolic blood pressure (SBP). When the heart is
at rest, between beats, the BP drops. This lower pressure is called the diastolic blood
pressure (DBP). The blood flow does not stop when the heart muscle is relaxed. Blood
pressure is expressed as these two numbers, the SBP and DBP. Both are important. Usually they are written as SBP/DBP e.g. 120/80 mmHg (measured in millimetres of mercury, a unit for measuring pressure). Blood pressure is measured with a variety of equipment, such as mercury Baumanometers or electronic BP monitors.
Hypertension (High BP)
High blood pressure, known as hypertension, is a BP reading of 140/90 mmHg or
higher. A person has hypertension if either of the numbers is above the cut-off point. Once high BP develops, it usually lasts a lifetime. The good news is that it can be controlled by following a healthy lifestyle and using appropriate medication. Hypertension is controlled when treatment reduces the BP to below 140/90 mmHg. High BP is a silent killer because it usually has no symptoms. Some people may not
know they have hypertension until they have trouble with their heart, brain, or kidneys. When hypertension is not treated, it may cause:
1. the heart muscle to weaken, which may lead to heart failure, 2. small bulges (aneurysms) to form in arteries. Common locations are the main
artery from the heart (aorta); arteries in the brain, legs, and intestines; and the artery leading to the spleen,
3. arteries to the kidney to narrow which may cause kidney failure, 4. arteries throughout the body develop atherosclerosis or they can weaken,
especially those in the heart, brain, kidneys, and legs. This can cause a heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.
5. blood vessels in the eyes to burst or bleed, which may cause changes in vision
• People cannot feel when they have hypertension/high blood pressure. The BP
needs to be measured at a clinic, pharmacy or in a doctor’s surgery with the
• Hypertension occurs more frequently in older people and is more common in
people who are overweight or obese, or in those who use too much salt (sodium) and too little potassium (in fruit and vegetables). People who use a lot of alcohol also tend to have higher blood pressures (notes 10.1, 10.2).
• About a quarter of all South Africans, 15 years and older, suffer from hypertension.
Overall, there are no marked differences between the rates of hypertension among the different population groups (note 10.3).
• The rural black Africans had significantly less hypertension than the urban black
• South Africans with tertiary education had less hypertension than those with 12
• People with a family history of hypertension or stroke were more likely to have
hypertension than those without such a history. This suggests that hypertension in some way may be inherited (note 10.4).
• About 6 million South Africans 15 years and older suffer from hypertension, of
whom millions were not diagnosed and even more inadequately treated. Of all these people only 26% of men and 51% of women knew that they had hypertension (note 10.3).
• Only 21% of men and 36% of women were taking drugs to reduce their BP, while
only 10% of men and 18% of women had their BP levels sufficiently reduced to the level that would eliminate the risk to their hearts, brain and kidneys (note 10.3).
• It has been estimated that in 2000, 8% of deaths in men and 11% of deaths of
women 30 years and older were caused by a high BP (note 10.4).
• Much of the damage caused by hypertension can be prevented if diagnosed early
and treated adequately. This will reduce costs to patients, the health services and the economy (notes 10.1, 10.2).
• An effective approach to the management of hypertension involves, in addition to
taking medication the promotion of a healthy lifestyle for all South Africans. The prevention of hypertension should include eating more fruit and vegetables and
less salty food, using less alcohol, and achieving and maintaining normal body weight. Regular exercise and no smoking will also be beneficial (notes 10.1, 10.2).
10.1 Seedat YK, Croasdale MA, Milne FJ, Opie LH, Pinkney-Atkinson VJ, Rayner BL, Veriava
Y; Joint National Hypertension Guideline Working Group 2006. South African
Hypertension Guidelines. South African Medical Journal 2006; 96: 337-362.
subcommittee. 1999 World Health Organization- International Society of
Hypertension. Guidelines for the management of hypertension. Journal of Hypertension
10.3 Steyn K, Gaziano TA, Bradshaw D, Laubscher R, Fourie JM. Hypertension in South
African adults: results from the Demographic and Health Survey, 1998. Journal of Hypertension 2001; 19(9): 1717-1725. [These data were collected in the first South
African Demographic and Health Survey (SADHS) in 1998, in a random sample of about 14 000 South Africans.]
10.4 Norman R, Gaziano T, Laubscher R, Steyn K, Bradshaw D; the SA CRA collaborating
group. Estimating the burden of high blood pressure in South Africa in 2000. South African Medical Journal 2007;97:
A disease where the body stops making the hormone insulin. Insulin carries the sugar, glucose from the blood into the cells where it is used for energy. As a result the glucose levels in the blood rises and can cause damage to arteries to many organs in the body, such as the kidneys, heart, brain, eyes and the nerves. Untreated diabetes therefore results in kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, blindness and amputations, particularly of the legs.
This condition usually precedes the development of diabetes and is diagnosed when a person’s blood sugar increases more than normal after a glucose tolerance test, but is lower than in a person with diabetes.
Glucose tolerance test
This is one of the tests to diagnose diabetes. It involves drinking a strong glucose
solution after over-night fasting and then measuring one’s blood sugar over a 2-hour period.
Hyperglycaemia refers to a high blood glucose level.
Types 1 and 2 diabetes
Two major types of diabetes mellitus are known: Type 1
is characterised by the abrupt onset of symptoms which usually start at a
young age. A lack of insulin production by the beta cells of the pancreas. Currently,
type 1 diabetes can be treated only with insulin, with careful monitoring of blood
glucose levels using blood-testing monitors. Type 2
normally starts in the middle age and carries a high risk for heart disease.
• The risk for developing type 2 diabetes increases with age. It also increases in
people who are overweight or obese, who follow a sedentary lifestyle and in
Africans who have been living in the city for a long time (notes 11.1, 11.2).
• Because of the increase in risk factors, diabetes rates in developing populations are
also increasing. This is a global phenomenon and is expected to continue (notes 11.1, 11.2).
• Diabetes rates vary among the South African population groups. In 2000, in people
older than 30 years, the highest rate was recorded in Indians, where 18% of men
and 16% of women had diabetes. The rates found in the coloured and white groups were the same, with 5% of men and 7% of women having diabetes and for the African population those living in rural areas had a rate of 3% and those in the cities a 6% rates (note 11.3).
• It has been estimated that there are about 1.5 million South Africans with
• In 2000, diabetes caused 3% of deaths in men and 6% of deaths in women
• Diabetes is the most common cause of leg amputations and blindness in South
Africans. It also contributes to kidney failure that requires dialyses and transplants
• Many people with diabetes are undiagnosed or treated inadequately, and
consequently have many complications. Early diagnosis and good diabetes care can prevent many of these severe complications (notes 11.4-11.6).
• The following symptoms could possibly be present in people with diabetes:
¾ Frequent passing of urine, particularly at night
¾ Tingling or numbness of feet and hands
¾ Slow healing of cuts and other wounds.
• Recently the Diabetes Strategy for Africa was launched, which calls upon
governments, non-government organisations and the industry to implement this integrated approach to reduce the burden of diabetes in Africa (note 11.7).
• Key elements of the strategy include supporting the patients:
¾ to follow a healthy lifestyle with physical activity, a healthy diet and no
¾ by teaching them to monitor their blood glucose levels, ¾ to use their medication correctly, particularly if they need to inject
¾ to look after their feet adequately to ensure that ulcers are prevented or
¾ to make sure that their eyes are regularly checked, and ¾ to encourage them to recognize and act appropriately on signs of having too
high or too low blood glucose levels (note 11.7).
11.1 King H, Aubert RE, Herman WH. Global burden of diabetes, 1995-2025: prevalence,
numerical estimates and projections. Diabetes Care 1998; 21: 1414-1431.
11.2 Wild S, Roglic G, Green A, Sicree R, King H. Global prevalence of diabetes: estimates
for the year 2000 and projections for 2030. Diabetes Care 2004; 27: 1047-1053.
11.3 Bradshaw D, Pieterse D, Norman R, Levitt NS; South African Comparative Risk
Assessment Collaborating Group. Estimating the burden of diabetes in South Africa in 2000. South African Medical Journal 2007; (in press). [No surveys have determined
diabetes rates in a national random sample of South Africans. This paper reports these rates, which have been estimated by collating data from a variety of studies conducted
in different settings across South Africa].
11.4 Levitt NS, Bradshaw D, Zwarenstein MF, Bawa AA, Maphumolo S. Audit of public sector
primary diabetes care in Cape Town, South Africa: high prevalence of complications, uncontrolled hyperglyaemia and hypertension. Diabetes Medicine 1997; 14: 1073-1077.
11.5 Motala AA, Pirie FJ, Gouws E, Amod A, Omar MA. Microvascular complications in South
African patients with long-duration diabetes mellitus. South African Medical Journal 2001; 91: 987-992.
11.6 Rotchford AP, Rotchford KM. Diabetes in rural South Africa--an assessment of care and
complications. South African Medical Journal 2002; 92: 536-541.
11.7 IDF Africa and WHO-AFRO. The Diabetes Strategy for Africa: An integrated strategic
plan for diabetes and related health risks. A joint initiative for the IDF Africa and WHO-
AFRO. Dar-Es-Salaam: International Diabetes Federation Africa, 2006.
12 HIGH BLOOD CHOLESTEROL
Hyperlipidaemia is a high concentration of all the different blood fats (also called
lipids) in the blood.
Hypercholesterolaemia is a high level of cholesterol in the blood and a major risk
factor for heart disease, which leads to atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.
The cholesterol is in different forms in the blood. The most important ones are low-
density lipoprotein (LDL) known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is the ‘good’ blood cholesterol. A high level of LDL cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. Therefore, the lower your LDL cholesterol is, the lower your risk of heart attack and stroke will be. Higher HDL levels are better and give some
protection against heart disease. Whereas a low HDL cholesterol puts you at higher risk for heart disease.
Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) is a rare genetic disorder, characterised by very
high LDL cholesterol and early CVD, which runs in families.
A tendon is a band of tissue that connects a muscle to a bone. The Achilles tendon is
the longest tendon in the body and runs down the back of the lower leg, connecting the calf muscle to the heel bone. KEY POINTS
• Everybody has cholesterol present in the blood and all parts of the body. It is only
when the level gets too high that the risk for heart attacks increase. Usually those
with total blood cholesterol levels of 5 mmol/L or higher are said to have hypercholesterolaemia (notes 12.1, 12.2).
• For most people high blood cholesterol is caused by following an unhealthy
lifestyle, such as eating too much fat or oily food. These are particularly saturated animal fats (hard fats like butter, fatty meat and greasy fast foods) or trans
acids in some hard margarines and some processed foods. High levels of cholesterol-rich food, such as eggs and red meat can also cause blood cholesterol to rise. Eating too little fibre also contributes to high blood cholesterol (notes 12.1, 12.2).
• Blood cholesterol levels increase with age, especially in people who follow a typical
western lifestyle. Therefore, a doctor should check cholesterol levels in middle-age persons (note 12.3).
• Blood cholesterol levels vary considerably among the different South African
population groups. Africans, 30 years or older, have the lowest rates of high blood cholesterol above 5 mmol/L (i.e., 24% of men and 32% of women) (note 12.3).
• White men (90%) and women (88%) have the highest blood cholesterol levels,
while coloured men (82%) and women (80%) and Indian men (87%) and women (77%) 30 years or older also have high levels (note 12.3).
• About 5 million South African adults had high blood cholesterol levels in 2000 (note
• It is estimated that 4% of men and 5% of women, 30 years and older, die because
of the impact of high blood cholesterol (note 12.3).
• HDL cholesterol can be increased by doing regular physical exercise, stopping
smoking, achieving normal body weight and using modest amounts of alcohol (for women 1-2 tots and men 2-3 tots per day (note 12.4).
• In a survey among about 13 000 patients at general practitioners’ practices, only
28% had a total blood cholesterol level below 5 mmol/L. Poor control of total blood cholesterol was found among those who had had a heart attack or angina (notes 12.5, 12.6).
• People who have suffered a heart attack and have high blood cholesterol can
benefit the most if these levels are treated effectively, as this can prevent an
additional heart attack (notes 12.5, 12.6).
• High blood cholesterol can be treated effectively with the medications called
statins, which have been shown to be life saving by reducing blood cholesterol levels considerably and thus preventing heart attacks and other atherosclerosis-related conditions (notes 12.7, 12.8).
• The rare inherited condition, familial hypercholesterolaemia, particularly occurs in
the Afrikaans-speaking white community of South Africa at a ratio of 1:72. This is the result of the concentration of the specific gene in a small group of settlers in the country over many generations (note 12.9).
• Familial hypercholesterolaemia is a serious condition in people who tend to suffer
heart attacks at a much younger age than usually (note 12.10).
• Be suspicious of suffering from FH if a close family member has a heart attack
before the age of 55 years. Family members, who have thickened uneven Achilles tendons or nodules in the tendons on the back of their hands, could also be at risk. If this is the case, it is important to have one’s blood cholesterol level checked by a doctor as soon as possible (note 12.7).
• A healthy lifestyle involving a healthy eating plan and regular physical activity is an
essential part of managing high blood cholesterol levels (note 12.1).
12.1 Executive Summary of the Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program
(NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol
in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). Journal of the American Medical Association 2001; 285: 2486-2497.
12.2 No authors. Diagnoses, management and prevention of the common dyslipidaemias in
South Africa – Clinical guideline, 2000. South African Medical Association and Lipid and Atherosclerosis Society of Southern Africa Working Group. South African Medical Journal
12.3 Norman R, Bradshaw D, Steyn K Gaziano T. Estimating the burden of High Cholesterol
in South Africa, 2000 (South African Medical Journal 2007;97:THE ACTUAL PAGE
NUMBERS WILL BE PROVIDED ASAP No survey in a national random sample of South African has ever been conducted. The
rates of high blood cholesterol reported in this paper are estimated by collating data from 10 studies conducted in different settings across South Africa.
12.4 Harper CR, Jacobson TA. New perspectives on the management of low levels of high-
density lipoprotein cholesterol. Archives of Internal Medicine 1999; 159: 1049-1057.
12.5 Rossouw JE, Lewis B, Rifkind BM. The value of lowering cholesterol after myocardial
infarction. New England Journal of Medicine 1990; 323: 1112-1119.
12.6 Steyn K, Fourie JM, Sheppard J. The Lipid Profile of South Africans attending General
Practitioners - The Cholesterol Monitor. South African Medical Journal 1998; 88: 1569-1574.
12.7 Goldstein JL, Hobbs HH, Brown MS. Familial hypercholesterolaemia. In: Scriver CR,
Beaudet Al, Sly WS, Valle D (eds). The metabolic basis of inherited disease, 7th edition.
12.8 Berger GMB, Marais AD, Seftel HC, et al. Treatment of hypercholesterolaemia with the
HMG CoA reductase inhibitor, simvastatin. Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy 1989; 3: 219-227.
12.9 Steyn K, Goldberg YP, Kotze MJ, Steyn M, Swanepoel ASP, Fourie JM, Coetzee GA, van
der Westhuyzen DR. Estimation of the prevalence of familial hypercholesterolaemia in a rural Afrikaner community by direct screening for three Afrikaner founder low-density
lipoprotein receptor gene mutations. Human Genetics 1996; 98: 479-484.
12.10 Kotze MJ, Langenhoven E, Warnich L, Du Plessis L, Retief AE. The molecular basis and
diagnosis of familial hypercholesterolaemia in South African Afrikaners. Annals of Human Genetics 1991; 55: 115-121.
13 ECONOMIC IMPACT OF HEART DISEASE AND COST-EFFECTIVE
Economic impact of heart disease
The cost of heart disease to a country is twofold. Firstly, there is the direct cost of the
increased health care attributable to a person having heart disease, and secondly,
there are indirect costs because a person with heart disease cannot be optimally
productive at work or is absent from work because of the illness or premature death.
The direct cost of heart disease
This includes the cost of screening people for heart disease or its risk factors, actual
cost of drugs, costs of the clinic or doctor’s visits and the laboratory tests done to
monitor the patient, as well as travelling costs.
Cost-effective treatment is a treatment that is not only effective in healing or
controlling a disease but also costs less to society than the cost of the disease if it is
not treated. For example, it costs less to provide effective medication to a person,
who has had a heart attack, with high blood cholesterol than it costs not treating this person. Not treating this person will lead to suffering serious heart disease that will cost more than the medication would have cost.
When a new drug comes to the market it usually occurs while the patent for the chemical agent is still in force. These brand named drugs are usually quite expensive in order to cover the development costs of the new drug. The duration of the patents
is limited and after this period the drug can be made by any company and is usually then sold at much lower prices. These generic drugs marketed without brand names even though they are chemically identical to brand-name drugs and meet the standards for safety, purity and effectiveness. KEY POINTS • In 1991, the cost of CVD was between R4.135 and R5.035 billion, which did not
include the costs of rehabilitation and follow-up. This expenditure reflects 2%-3% of gross domestic product (GDP) or roughly 25% of all health-care expenditure (notes 13.1-13.3).
• South Africa is already losing more people in the work-force age group (35-64
years) because of CVD compared to countries such as the USA and Portugal. These premature deaths have a major economic impact on the economy of the country
• Projections are that cardiovascular deaths will increase by 41% in this age group
• Estimates are that in 2000, the cost of cardiovascular disability payments in South
Africa equalled US$ 70 million (note 13.4).
• The drug costs for CVD and its risk factors vary widely among different countries.
These costs are usually much less if generic medications of commonly used drugs are available (note 13.2).
• The most cost-effective interventions to reduce CVD are those which target the
population as a whole and include education through the mass media to promote a
healthy diet, regular physical activity, along with legislation targeting tobacco control and the reduction of salt in commercial food products (note 13.2).
• When treating individual patients the most cost-effective approach is the absolute
risk approach where the total cardiovascular risk is determined by considering the impact of all the risk factors present in a patient (see Section 3) (note 13.2).
• There is good evidence that it is cost-effective to combine a number of effective
medications into one single tablet. This idea of a 'polypill' containing low doses of multiple drugs has generated much interest, with proponents arguing that, given the high prevalence of CVD risk factors and the effectiveness of pharmacologic interventions, such a drug combination would reduce CVD mortality by 88% (notes 13.2, 13.5-13.8).
• The 'polypill' would be particularly cost-effective in developing countries as patients
take single-pill combinations more religiously than several tablets at a time. This approach would also reduce the supply and transport costs (note 13.6).
13.1 These first, very early calculations were based on many assumptions that could not be
verified as there was so little data available in South Africa at that time on which to
base the calculation of the above given figures. These data should be treated with some caution.
13.2 Pestana JAX, Steyn K, Leiman A, Hartzenberg GM. The direct and indirect costs of
cardiovascular disease in South Africa in 1991. South African Medical Journal 1996; 86: 679-684.
13.3 Rodgers A, Lawes CMM, Gaziano TA, Vos T. The Growing Burden of Risk from High
Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, and Bodyweight. In: Jamison DT, Breman JG, Measham
AR, et al. (eds). Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. 2nd Edition, Chapter 45. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006: 851-868.
13.4 Leeder S, Greenburg SR, Liu H, Esson K. A Race against time: The challenge of
cardiovascular disease in developing economies. New York: Columbia University, 2004
13.5 Wald NJ and Law MR. A strategy to reduce cardiovascular disease by more than 80
percent. British Medical Journal 2003; 326: 1419.
13.6 Yusuf S. Two decades of progress in preventing vascular disease. The Lancet 2002;
13.7 Daviglus ML, Lloyd-Jones DM, Pirzada A. Preventing cardiovascular disease in the 21st
century: therapeutic and preventive implications of current evidence. American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs. 2006; 6(2): 87-101.
13.8 Murray C, Lopez A. The World Health Report 2002 - Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy
Life. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2002.
Dorlands Illustrated Medical Dictionary. 30th Edition. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2000.
Atherosclerosis etc.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atherosclerosis
Cholesterol: www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4488 www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/cholesterol.html
Diabetes: http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/2002/02.07/09-diabetes.html http://www.diabetes.org/about-diabetes.jsp
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 2006 on line: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/index.htm 140607.
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