Health News | Did you know? Heart disease has no age

We cannot live without a heart. 

But how much do you really know about your heart health?

Heart disease includes a number of conditions, such as ischaemic heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, cardiac arrest, arrhythmia, angina and heart valve disease.

But did you know that heart disease is not only a problem in older people? While it’s true that you are at greater risk of heart disease as you age, it can affect people of any age.

18 years old

“I’m too young to have a heart attack” is a common misconception among teenagers and young adults. The truth is that your lifestyle can affect your cardiovascular health, even from an early age.

According to The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, there are some risk factors for heart disease that you cannot control.  

Family history and genetics play an important role in determining the likelihood of heart disease.

Another risk factor is poverty, which is rife in South Africa. According to Statistics South Africa, poverty levels rose from 53.2% in 2011 to 55.55% in 2015.

Children 17 years and younger, black Africans, females, people from rural areas and those with little to no access to education are the main victims of poverty.

This increases anxiety and stress levels. Healthy lifestyle choices are not always an option and good medical treatment is often inaccessible.

25 years old

A study has shown that many young people show early signs of heart disease such as blocked arteries due to high cholesterol.

The biggest risk factors for a clogged artery were found in obese individuals with high levels of “bad” cholesterol. If you’re in your 20s, have your cholesterol tested.

High cholesterol can be treated through dietary and lifestyle changes and medication.

The younger you are, the better it is to make positive and healthy lifestyle choices that may benefit you in the long run.

30 years old

Signs and symptoms of heart disease in your 30s are an even greater risk for complications later in life.

Symptoms may differ in men and women.

According to the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, some women who have coronary heart disease (CHD) show no signs or symptoms – this is called silent CHD.

Many factors together increase the likelihood of heart disease, and there is no single cause. The more risk factors you have, the higher your chances of developing heart disease.

40 years old

According to The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa women are better protected against a heart attack before menopause, but the risk increases after the onset of menopause.

Menopause by itself does not cause heart disease, but a decline in oestrogen may be a contributing factor. Studies suggest that oestrogen has a positive effect on the inner lining of the artery walls by allowing the blood vessels to accommodate adequate blood flow.

Further risk factors for heart disease include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. Unhealthy lifestyle choices increase your risk as you grow older.

People who are diagnosed with peripheral artery disease and stroke, which carry the same risk factors as heart disease, have an increased risk of developing further heart complications and illnesses.

65 years and older

Advanced age and family history are risk factors for heart disease. Stats SA reports that non-communicable diseases have increased in the elderly.

Non-communicable diseases, which include cardiovascular diseases, are accountable for 62.5% of the top 10 leading causes of death among females  65 years and older, and 48% among males 65 years and older.

But it does not mean that you will develop heart disease. Controlling risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, body weight, physical activity, stress and nutrition can lower your chances of developing heart disease throughout your life.

Image credit: iStock | 5 ways runners mess up their teeth

It might be obvious to your dentist that you’re a runner the moment you slide into the chair. Those trainers and the Garmin are dead giveaways.

But, even in the absence of external cues, the dentist might be able to tell as soon as you open your mouth.

“Running can be a really tough sport for your oral health,” says dentist Elizabeth Turner. In fact, a small study of triathletes published in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports found higher rates of erosion and cavities with heavier endurance training.

Here’s what dentists might be seeing on runners’ teeth – and what they wish runners would do to take care of them.

1. Overdoing it on sugar in the name of fuelling

The gels, chews, and sports drinks that fuel your workout also feed bacteria that occur naturally in your mouth, says Jeremy Hoffman, a dentist and runner. As these bugs dine, they produce an acid that eats away at the protective enamel covering your teeth.

To your dentist, this decay looks like white, chalky lines, he says. If you constantly swill sports drinks, it might appear at the base of your teeth where they meet the gums. Or it might show up where liquid splashes over your front teeth, otherwise an uncommon area for cavities, says dentist Bridget Lyons who competed in the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials. Turner had an ultra-runner patient who put energy blocks in her cheek and let them dissolve during training and races; she arrived for her appointment with multiple small cavities between her teeth.

The fix: Regardless of your sugar delivery method, you can protect your teeth by swishing your mouth out with water immediately after you ingest it, says Julia Burchett, a dentist and marathoner in Maryland. A healthy diet and plenty of non-sugary beverages during the rest of your day can also give your mouth a respite, reducing your cavity risk, Hoffman says.

If you’re cavity-prone, consider using gels with a thinner consistency that don’t stick to your teeth, he says. And seek out flavours without citric or tartaric acid – these compounds, which give sour or tart foods their flavour, can further erode your enamel with frequent or extended use.

2. Forgetting what happens when you’re a mouth breather

Many runners are mouth-breathers, a habit that can leave you a bit dried out. Less spit means more cavities, Hoffman says, because saliva washes away debris and also neutralises acids from food and bacteria.

During high-intensity training, the composition and consistency of your saliva changes. “Instead of being more fluid and lubricating for your mouth, it’s more sticky and mucous-like,” Turner says. In this state, it can trap decay-causing sugars and acids instead of rinsing them away.

The fix: Again, drinking water – or just rinsing with it – can rehydrate your whole body and restore your balance. Chewing sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol, can also help, Turner says. While she chews it on the run, you don’t have to; four to five pieces anytime throughout the day can prevent plaque from building up on your teeth, she says.

3. Breaking the work you’ve already had done

Sticky chews and dense protein bars can damage crowns and fillings. After all, the cement that holds these structures in place is weaker than your natural tooth and bone, Hoffman says. That means it’s far easier for gooey or hard foods to compromise them.

The fix: If you have had extensive dental work, exercise extra caution when chewing on sticky or crunchy foods, Lyons recommends. Or experiment with real foods to fuel your workouts, such as bananas or peanut butter energy bites.

4. Using your teeth to open up packets

This one is self-explanatory, and yes, Lyons has seen patients chip their teeth in this way.

The fix: Just don’t tempt fate, regardless of your dental history. You’re asking for trouble.

5. Grinding at night and during workouts

Type-A runners often clench their jaws or grind their teeth, especially at night or during tough speed sessions. While some companies sell athletic mouth guards, Burchett says she’s never seen anyone wear one to the track.

The fix: “One thing that is helpful is to concentrate on relaxing your face, relaxing your shoulders, relaxing your arms so you’re not so tense,” Lyons says. “If you can get back to that relaxed place in the workout, then I think that helps your teeth and also helps you run faster.”

If you do grind at night – symptoms include pain and stiffness when you wake up and flattened, loose teeth – talk to your dentist. Wearing a night guard can help you sleep better, always an advantage for runners. You’ll wake up refreshed and with less wear and tear on your molars and canines, Turner says.

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Image credit: iStock | SEE: Eating 3 healthy meals on a budget

It’s a phrase you often hear: “Eating healthy costs money.” And with lifestyle diseases on the rise in South Africa, it’s important to address the issue of good nutrition. 

Meet Tebogo Mokgothadi — a dietitian who gives advice on how to eat healthy for less. 




Health-e News

NEXT ON HEALTH24X | This is exactly how your weight affects your sex life

Research reveals that your relationship could be tested when your waistline – or your guy’s – begins to grow (or even shrink). Learn to maintain a strong and loving union, scale be damned.

Sitting on my boyfriend’s lap at a bar in our hometown a few months ago, I was feeling a little sassy and started whispering sweet (and by sweet, I mean salaciously dirty) nothings into his ear. Playing along, he went to give my ass a flirtatious squeeze – a move he’s favoured since we started dating a year ago – but, instead, managed to grab a handful of my ample lower back. Yep, definitely not my butt.

Read more: ‘I watched porn with my partner for the first time – here’s what happened”

Admittedly, by swapping yoga classes for cocktails with my man, I had put on some “happy weight” – those kilos people add when they’re blissfully head over heels – or what Channing Tatum calls “fappy”, for fat and happy. My guy said he adored my new curves, but they were making me self-conscious. And that love-handle grab didn’t help.

Insecurities are nothing new, but as Sarah Varney reveals in her book, XL Love: How the Obesity Crisis is Complicating America’s Love Life, new evidence suggests that when a partner gains or loses a considerable amount, the shift can push a rock-solid bond onto shaky ground. But not always: research also shows that lots of couples manage to remain tight in the face of weight change. Follow these strategies to stay hot and heavy with your partner – no matter what the scale says.

Team up

Love can send emotions – and dress sizes – soaring. Experts blame spousal concordance, the phenomenon in which partners gradually adopt the same rituals, for better or for worse. Have you submitted to his Sunday TV binge-watching routine? Joined his late-night McDonalds runs? You’ve fallen prey to spousal concordance. Melding your worlds creates intimacy, but it’s also one reason why happy couples tend to gain weight, according to a Health Psychology study. While adding a few extra kilos isn’t so bad, starting unhealthy habits is. “Asking your partner to encourage healthy habits and discourage destructive ones can help motivate you,” says Joburg-based clinical psychologist Liane Lurie.

Read more: “I cheated on my husband – and this is why I did it”

Her advice is also critical for twosomes who are challenging themselves to lose in dangerous ways because they think their partner won’t be attracted to them otherwise. “Perhaps the words ‘For fatter, for thinner’ should be added to our modern-day marriage vows,” says Lurie. If you both need to get back on a healthier track, set small goals you can achieve together: commit to taking a 15-minute walk or run together every weekend morning, or swap takeaways (whether fast food or green juice) twice a week for a home-cooked dinner.

sex, health

Own those curves

Unfair, but true: relationships can get extra tricky when one partner expands but the other doesn’t – especially if the gainer is the woman. A study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that husbands and wives are both more content when the wife’s BMI is lower than the husband’s – even if she’s still overweight. “A less-heavy wife could make a man believe that he’s done well on the mate market,” says study author Dr Benjamin Karney.

But what if you’re the buff one? Take heart: size isn’t the only predictor of relationship success; sex and communication count too. In fact, what’s far more important than your comparative proportions, is how you feel about your body.

Read more: This is how long most couples date before getting married

Joburger Dawn Tlhapane had always been petite, but after dating her guy for a while, she started gaining weight, and went from a size 28 to 32. “I was worried he wouldn’t find me as sexy,” she says. A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that whether women were tiny or voluptuous, those with a poor body image were less sexually fulfilled, likely because they were too hung up on how they looked during the deed to actually enjoy it.

Since that’s no fun, it’s crucial to work on improving your confidence. “I eventually confronted my guy and, it turns out, he thought I looked beautiful with a few extra kilos,” says Dawn. “It actually brought us closer together.” “Every time your partner compliments you, thank them and repeat the compliment in your head, even if you don’t believe it,” suggests Dr Jessica O’Reilly, author of The New Sex Bible: The New Guide to Sexual Love. Then keep those good vibes going in the bedroom. “Everyone looks hot from behind and there’s no such thing as a bad close-up of boobs,” insists O’Reilly, so try reverse cowgirl: get on top, facing his feet, and roll your hips in a circular motion to get you both off.

sex, health

Support his weight

Dudes don’t have it easier: they often care about their weight as much as we do. One guy we spoke to gained nine kilos while dating his now-ex. “I found myself wondering why anyone would want to have sex with me,” he says. It can be easy to pin your guy’s weight troubles on a pre-existing problem you have with him. So, what was once a peeve about his messiness can morph into: “He’s lazy. And it’s showing.”

Read more: THIS sex trend is more popular in relationships than ever before

If your guy is slimming down, you might interpret that the wrong way too: Is he getting ready to leave me? Not necessarily. Your guy may be going through the same thing. Capetonian Basha Taylor, 35, says dropping 64kg has refreshed her 14-year marriage. “I feel sexier, have more energy and want to be outdoors,” she says. Basha and her husband use this to their advantage, watching the sun set from the sand dunes every Sunday… “My husband spoils me now; I’ve never seen that side of him.” Rather than take his shape-shifting as a sign that you’re growing apart, think about what might have caused it. And be supportive – just as you’d want him to be if you put on some extra padding.

sex, health

Sweet therapy

It’s a fact: exercising together can improve your bod and your bond. Research has shown that after participating in an exciting joint physical challenge or novel activity, many couples reported feeling happier in their relationships. And a recent survey revealed that 85 percent of duos who work out together said that it has improved their union, with one in five claiming that it “saved their relationship altogether”. Visiting a hiking trail versus a couples’ therapist? Far less pricey, that’s for sure.

sex, health

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Image credits: iStock

NEXT ON HEALTH24X | South Africans are living longer, but there’s bad news

The latest Global Burden of Disease study data shows that South Africa continues to battle with HIV, road injuries and violence as well as diseases related to obesity.

“Life expectancy in South Africa is rapidly increasing, but that doesn’t mean we’re enjoying healthier lives,” said Professor Charles Shey Wiysonge, Director of Cochrane South Africa and a co-author of the study in a statement.

Fewer healthy years

“Communicable diseases like HIV, car accidents, and waves of violence are taking the lives of far too many South Africans, especially young people. South Africa is one of the few countries in the world where the number of healthy years that men and women can expect to live has fallen over the past 25 years,” he said.

The study, published in the medical journal the Lancet, is a peer-reviewed analysis of global data on causes of death, disease and risk factors to health loss is in its 20th edition. It is based on research from more than 130 countries involving the work of over 2 500 collaborators.

Globally, 2016 was the first time in modern history where fewer than five million children under the age of five died in one year. In 1990, for example, 11 million died.

‘A lot of work to do’

The study warns that the “triad of troubles” of obesity, conflict and mental illness, including substance use disorders is threatening and preventing progress.

Excess body fat is associated with a range of health risks. A high body mass index (an indicator of obesity) is the fourth largest contributor to loss of healthy life, after high blood pressure, smoking and high blood sugar.

Furthermore, poor diet is associated with one in every five deaths in the world.

Said Wiysonge: “We have a lot of work to do.” – Health-e News.

Image credit: iStock