What you can learn from celebrities with heart disease

They've each had different experiences of heart disease that they want to share to help you.

27 March 2017
By Meg de Jong

Second only to HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease – including heart disease and strokes – is a leading cause of death in South Africa. Thankfully, 80% of cardiovascular disease can be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle, reports The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa.

Here’s what we can learn about preventing and managing the serious challenges of heart disease from local and international celebrities.

1. Toni Braxton

Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter Toni Braxton has had more than one brush with heart disease. In 2008, the star suffered from microvascular angina (spasms in the heart’s smallest coronary artery blood vessels, which cause chest pain) – this after being diagnosed with pericarditis (an inflammation of the lining of the heart) in 2004. Due to pericarditis, her heart flutters now. She also has to take a beta-blocker to lower her very high blood pressure.

“You think it’s some older guy, retired, [but] you can be in your 30s, less than 115 pounds (52kg), exercise – and have heart disease,” the singer told Newsweek in an interview. The reality is that women can’t afford to ignore their heart disease risk. Worldwide cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes 8.6 million deaths amongst women annually, reports the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa.

It’s the largest single cause of mortality, accounting for a third of all deaths in women worldwide. In South Africa, CVD remains one of the foremost killers, and one in four women before the age of 60 will have some form of heart condition before the age of 60.

Braxton says she has had to make some important lifestyle changes, specifically to her diet. She tries to avoid salty and fatty foods, and walks on a treadmill for at least 20 minutes a day.

2. Robert Marawa

Renowned sports journalist and TV personality Robert Marawa was only 35 when he suffered a heart attack in 2008. Marawa’s doctor attributed the event to the celeb’s hectic lifestyle – namely eating unhealthily, pushing himself too hard and not getting enough sleep and downtime.

Following his heart attack, Marawa says he eats much more healthily, exercises often, and makes an effort to relax and de-stress on a daily basis to ensure that his cholesterol and blood pressure levels are maintained at a healthy low. He also takes aspirin and cholesterol medication.

“Taking annual leave is another non-negotiable,” he said in an interview with O The Oprah Magazine South Africa. “I’ve realised that although work is important, it’s really not the only priority in life… Take time to rest, and get your cholesterol and blood pressure tested regularly – you might think it’s a waste of time, but it could save your life,” he said.

3. Mark Pilgrim

TV and radio personality Mark Pilgrim suffered a heart attack – luckily in his doctor’s office – in 2008. Pilgrim, who was already leading a healthy and active lifestyle, discovered that his heart disease was due to genetic factors. “We always like to think that health is only related to lifestyle issues. I was a healthy guy who trained five times a week and ate extremely well, so I just assumed that heart disease couldn’t affect me. I found out the hard way that a genetic predisposition plays a very important part as well,” he tells the Clicks Health Team.

Following his near-fatal experience, Pilgrim strongly recommends regular cholesterol and blood pressure check-ups and finding out if there are any heart-related illnesses within your family.

4. Bill Clinton

Former US president Bill Clinton has had multiple run-ins with heart disease. He had quadruple coronary artery bypass surgery in 2004, which required another operation six months later due to rare complications. Clinton experienced chest pains once again in 2010, and underwent surgery to clear a clogged artery. Since then, the former president has radically changed his lifestyle – including losing a lot of weight (about 13kg), and becoming a vegan.

Look after your heart

As this wide variety of experiences show, both genetics and lifestyle have an impact on the health of our hearts. Be sure to eat healthily, exercise regularly, know your family history and get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly to ensure your heart stays healthy.

How Clicks Clinics can help you

Clicks Clinics can help you prevent or manage heart disease with their wide range of screening tests. These include:

  • Blood Pressure (BP) Test
  • Cholesterol Testing and Consultation
  • Lipogram Blood Test (to determine different types of cholesterol)
  • Clicks Full Basic Screening (BP, Body Mass Index or BMI, meal guide and exercise plan)
  • Clicks Screening Measurements only (BP and BMI)
  • Clicks Comprehensive Screening (BP, BMI, Glucose and Cholesterol screening, plus meal and exercise plan)

To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or visit Clicks Clinics online.

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

Read More: Heart Disease Super Section