Over 90 per cent of South Africans pledge to take better care of their hearts

A resounding 98 per cent of the 1 500 South Africans polled at the start of the new year have pledged to take drastic steps in order to give heart disease the boot starting this Valentine’s month.

The public poll forms part of Pharma Dynamics’ national Hug your Heart campaign, launched in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA (HSF) every February to shine the spotlight on heart-health. This year’s focus is on how making certain lifestyle changes could avert heart disease – a condition which claims the lives of more than 78 475 Mzansians annually.


Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics says given that Valentine’s Month is all about the heart, it makes for the perfect time to re-evaluate our relationship with our hearts.

‘Our survey results point to a positive change in consumer attitudes toward heart-health with a whopping 99 per cent of participants acknowledging the link between unhealthy lifestyle behaviours and heart disease. Even though the majority vowed to take charge of their own heart-health, a disappointing 36 didn’t see the need to. Some (42 per cent) said it’s too difficult to keep up a healthy lifestyle, while 14 per cent felt they were too old for it to have any effect.’

The good news is that the majority of SA men and women are serious about making changes for the sake of their hearts:

  • 71 per cent pledged to eat right by limiting junk food, confectionary (desserts) and sugary soft drinks
  • 66 per cent is going to exercise more regularly (at least three times a week)
  • 65 per cent promised to drink more water (at least six to eight glasses a day)
  • 53 per cent is going to limit their intake of processed food, such as cold meats (ham, salami, paté etc) and convenience foods, such as ready-made microwave meals
  • 50 per cent will get their blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol tested annually
  • 49 per cent pledged to sleep at least 8 hours or more per night
  • 48 per cent said they would cut back on salt (a high daily sodium intake has been linked to high blood pressure)
  • 45 per cent will make a point of reading food labels and buy foods that are low in
  • 41 per cent aims to reach and/or maintain a healthy weight goal
  • 40 per cent will try to reduce cholesterol (should diet and exercise alone not reduce cholesterol, ask your doctor to prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication since high cholesterol heightens your risk of a heart attack)
  • 39 per cent will cut down on alcohol intake
  • 36 per cent will reduce their intake of red meat
  • 36 per cent is going to manage stress by applying relaxation techniques
  • 28 per cent will quit smoking
  • 28 per cent aims to improve their time-management skills to help juggle work and family demands better, which will help ease unnecessary strain on the heart
  • 24 per cent promised to seek help for depression and anxiety as these conditions puts one at greater risk of heart disease

‘According to research, the five most harmful habits include tobacco smoking, lack of physical activity, being overweight, not eating right and drinking too much alcohol. The reality is that up to 70 per cent of heart disease and stroke cases can be prevented by simply living a healthier lifestyle. The challenging part however is to stick to these health resolutions. Rather than going all out, set yourself achievable goals, which is a key strategy for successful, long-term change. 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,’ recommends Jennings.

To help generate social engagement and much-needed funds for the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA, Pharma Dynamics will be donating R100 000 to the organisation as part of the #hugyourheart campaign. The public is also encouraged to donate any amount via SnapScan. Donors can www.facebook.com/PharmaDynamicsSA/ or www.hugyourheart.co.za, simply scan the QR code on the home page and donate the amount they wish.

Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the HSF says the funds will be used for campaigns and activities that address risk-reduction for cardio-vascular disease (CVD) such as high blood pressure, glucose screenings, body mass index and family history of CVD.

‘Every year we set a goal to have at least 10 500 South Africans’ blood pressure tested, but this year we want to exceed this target. If R200 000 worth of funds are raised, it will allow us to screen more than 13 500 South Africans countrywide – many of whom we suspect are in urgent or emergent hypertension, which requires immediate medical referral.

‘Furthermore, by bringing blood pressure screenings outside the doctor’s office and into non-traditional settings such as shopping malls, corporate offices and the like, it makes it more accessible to a broader audience.

‘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. Give yourself the best Valentine’s Day gift this year – the gift of a healthy heart,’ says Naidoo.

To ensure this Valentine’s Day speaks to the heart, try any of the delectable Heart and Stroke Foundation-approved recipes at www.hugyourheart.co.za, which forms part of Pharma Dynamics’ ongoing healthy eating initiative, called Cooking from the Heart.

Here’s a heart-healthy chocolate custard pudding that we’re totally smitten with:

 Chocolate custard pudding

Recipe adapted from Cooking from the heart 3

Serves 4

This velvety pudding has lots of flavour and contains very little sugar

1 tbsp (15 ml) sugar

3 tbsp (45 ml) cornflour

3 tbsp (45 ml) cocoa powder

¼ tsp (1,2 ml) ground cinnamon

2 cups (500 ml) low-fat milk

1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla essence

¼ cup (60 ml) chopped raw almonds

fresh seasonal fruit to serve

  1. Mix sugar, cornflour, cocoa and cinnamon with a little milk to form a paste.
  2. Gently heat remaining milk in a small saucepan. Add some warm milk to the paste and stir back into the rest of the milk.
  3. Stir continuously over a medium heat until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  4. Divide hot mixture into 4 small jars (small bowls or cups also work well). Allow to cool and chill in the fridge.
  5. Seal jars and pack in a picnic basket to enjoy as a healthier dessert. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and serve with fresh fruit skewered as little kebabs (see tip).


  1. Prepare fruit kebabs with fresh seasonal fruit like grapes, berries, peaches or nectarines.