Although 36 people said they didn't see a need to worry about the health of their heart, 97.6 percent of 1,500 South Africans polled at the start of the new year pledged to take steps to give heart disease the boot.
The public poll forms part of Pharma Dynamics' national "Hug Your Heart" campaign, launched in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA (HSF) to shine the spotlight on heart health this February.
This year's focus is on making certain lifestyle changes and sticking to them to avert heart disease – because up to 80 percent of heart-related diseases can be prevented.
The five most harmful habits to heart health are tobacco smoking, lack of physical activity, being overweight, not eating right and drinking too much alcohol.
"According to research, the five most harmful habits to heart health are tobacco smoking, lack of physical activity, being overweight, not eating right and drinking too much alcohol," said Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics.
"The challenging part, however, is to stick to these health resolutions," she added. This is evidenced by the 42 percent of respondents who admitted great difficulty in keeping up a healthy lifestyle, even if they had great intentions.
But Jennings believes the intention is a good start, and the recognition that their hearts will not take care of themselves by the majority of South African men and women is promising.
These are some of the pledges the respondents made:
- 71 percent pledged to eat right by limiting junk food, desserts and sugary soft drinks.
- 66 percent to exercise more regularly (at least three times a week).
- 65 percent to drink more water (at least six to eight glasses a day).
- 50 percent to get their blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol tested annually.
- 48 percent said they would cut back on salt (a high daily sodium intake has been linked to high blood pressure).
- 39 percent promised to cut down on alcohol intake.
- 36 percent to manage stress by applying relaxation techniques.
- 28 percent pledged to quit smoking.
- 24 percent promised to seek help for depression and anxiety, as these conditions put one at greater risk of heart disease.
The challenging part, however, is to stick to these health resolutions.
Set yourself achievable goals, which is a key strategy for successful, long-term change, recommends Jennings. "Secondly, track your progress every day — whether it's via a health or fitness app, device or notebook. Lastly, identify a support network, such as friends, family or an online community that will keep you motivated when you're tempted to throw in the towel."
"When it comes to taking care of your heart, you can never start too soon, and you will be surprised how small lifestyle changes can make a big difference over time," said Pamela Naidoo, CEO of HSF.