Heart disease, cancer and diabetes rising killers in SA

Heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are steadily killing more and more South Africans, says a new WHO report.

The World Health Organisation’s latest report details NCD trends in countries as well as their responses.

“I see no lack of commitment; I see a lack of capacity to act, especially in the developing world,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “Our latest data show that 85 percent of premature deaths from NCDs occur in developing countries.”

South Africans between the ages of 30 and 70 have almost double the risk of dying from an NCD as peers living in the United Kingdom.

NCDs are responsible for 44 percent of deaths nationwide. Heart disease is responsible for the bulk of these deaths followed by cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases.

A glance at South Africa’s health may explain why, reports

A third of South Africans between the ages of 30 and 70 years have high blood pressure and roughly the same proportion is obese. About 20 percent of South Africans smoke and the average person will consume about ten litres of pure alcohol annually.

“With urbanisation and economic transitions in South Africa, more people are adopting a westernised lifestyle, with unhealthy diets commonly made up of energy-dense, highly processed foods that are high in salt, sugar and unhealthy fats,” said Jessica Byrne, registered dietitian with the Heart Stroke Foundation South Africa.

“South Africans are becoming more sedentary, and these lifestyle risk factors contribute to the burden of NCD.”

She added the country’s love of salt is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure in the country. On average, South Africans consume more than twice the recommended amount of salt.

South Africa is one of over 190 governments that have agreed to a WHO global action plan to halt the epidemic and reduce premature deaths from NCDs by 25 percent by 2025.