The month of September is dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease and its risk factors, and the importance of living a healthy lifestyle to prevent disease onset. For decades we have been led to believe, mainly by the industry, that it is cholesterol and saturated fat, instead of sugar and other risk factors, that cause heart disease.
In recent years, the myth regarding this association has been busted. Here are five S’s that cause heart disease, and can be avoided by a change in lifestyle and activities.
The association between a high-sugar diet and a greater risk of heart disease is becoming clearer. During a 15-year investigation, scholars found that people who received 17 percent to 21 percent of their calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD), compared with those who consumed eight percent of their calories as added sugar.
One out of five deaths from heart disease is directly related to smoking. The nicotine in smoke has harmful effects on the heart as it reduces how much oxygen the heart accumulates, raises blood pressure, speeds up the heart rate, and increases the likelihood of blood clots.
These can lead to heart attacks or strokes that can negatively exacerbate blood vessels, including those in the heart. In addition, chemicals in cigarettes cause the cells that line blood vessels to become swollen and inflamed.
Sedentary behavior and physical inactivity are among the leading modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. This involves activities such as reading, computer usage, watching television, office work, prolonged sitting, and cellphone usage. To lower sedentary behavior, get a standing desk at work and reduce sitting time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults who sleep less than seven hours each night are more likely to say they have had health problems, including heart attack, asthma, and depression.
It has been shown that reduced sleep duration is a risk factor for CVD and sleeps deprivation is associated with hypertension, CHD, and type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.
Power naps of up to an hour can fill the void of less sleep during the night.
A culmination of the above will increase the risk of heart disease significantly. As health professionals, we should take the necessary steps in guiding people on abstaining from the above collectively.
Dr Habib Noorbhai is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Sport & Movement Studies, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg.
Social media: @Habib_Noorbhai