SA’s high toll of heart disease can be reduced by better tobacco control
September is Heart Awareness Month, culminating on World Heart Day (WHD) on 29 September. Protect our Next, a coalition of health organisations supporting better tobacco control, highlights South Africa’s high tobacco consumption as a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), saying that tobacco control measures in South Africa that could help prevent unnecessary CVD and other deaths from non-communicable diseases are urgently needed.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA), heart disease and strokes have the second highest mortality rate in South Africa, after TB, HIV and AIDS. CVDs are responsible for one in five deaths, with over 82 000 lives lost annually. 225 South Africans are killed by heart disease every day.
“Every hour in South Africa: 5 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. “80% of heart disease and stroke can be prevented, and with the National Health Insurance pending, the need to reduce the incidence of preventable NCDs is even more pressing.”
The 2021 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS-SA) reveals that 29.4% of people in South Africa use tobacco. “Smokers are 2 to 4 times more likely to get heart disease than non-smokers. The younger you start, the higher your risk. Even if you smoke one cigarette a day, your risk is 50% that of the risk of heavy smokers. We must go for zero tolerance and reduce our smoking rates.”