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Quitting smoking is one lifestyle change recommended by experts to reduce risk of getting heart disease

Quitting smoking is one lifestyle change recommended by experts to reduce risk of getting heart disease

A coalition of health organisations calling for improved tobacco control, Protect our Next, points to South Africa's high tobacco consumption as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), arguing that the country urgently needs tobacco control measures that could help prevent needless CVD and other non-communicable disease deaths.

In South Africa, heart and stroke diseases have the second highest mortality rate, after TB, HIV and Aids, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA). Over 82 000 lives are lost each year due to CVDs, which account for one in five deaths. Heart disease kills 225 South Africans every day.

“Every hour in South Africa: five people have heart attacks, 10 people have strokes, and of those events, 10 people will die. Yet, the triggers that give us our high cumulative risk score for CVDs, including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol, are entirely preventable,” says Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO of HSFSA and President of the African Heart Network.

Naidoo goes on to say that since 80% of heart disease and stroke can be prevented, furthermore it's imperative that the prevalence of preventable non-communicable diseases be decreased.

The 2021 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS-SA) revealed that smokers have a 2 to 4 times higher risk of developing heart disease than non-smokers. Your risk increases with age. Even if you only smoke one cigarette a day, your risk is half that of heavy smokers.

Naidoo asserts that quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for the health of your heart and body.

Quitting smoking is one lifestyle change recommended by experts to reduce risk of getting heart disease
Tobacco contains chemicals that can harm the heart and blood vessels. Picture by Eanlami-H/ unsplash

Tobacco contains chemicals that can harm the heart and blood vessels. Because the heart needs to work harder to give enough oxygen to the body and brain, smoking decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood, raising blood pressure and heart rate.

She says that quitting smoking has practically immediate advantages, and if you stick with it, your risk of developing heart disease and stroke can eventually drop to levels that are almost equivalent to those of non-smokers. E-cigarettes or vape goods can seriously affect the cardiovascular system and are just as addictive as tobacco products.

“We are determined to drive awareness as well as educate South Africans, especially the youth, about the devastating impact smoking has on your cardiovascular health,” says Naidoo.

“Risk factors can be reduced by a large margin with effective tobacco control.”

Dr Sharon Nyatsanza, Deputy Director of the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), says: “To prevent the crippling health impact of smoking and reduce South Africa’s high incidence of NCDs, including CVD, that deplete our health budget, we must make it harder to smoke cigarettes, e-cigarettes or vape products, hookah pipes and other related tobacco products.

“This will protect everyone from damaging second-hand smoke and curtail the tobacco industry’s ability to reach a new generation of smokers through misleading advertising.”

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Original Article