Campus Health
Welkom by Universiteit Stellenbosch

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#MyHeartYourHeartDo the BESST for your heart

B: Blood pressure check

E: Exercise

S: Salt, reduce salt intake

S: Stop smoking

T: talk about risk factors, spread the message​

B: Make sure to check your blood pressure, as well as getting your loved ones to check theirs.  There are many places you can get your blood pressure checked, including with the doctor, nurse or at the chemist.​

What is high blood pressure?

Enough pressure is needed in the arteries for blood to travel from the heart to the different parts of the body. High blood pressure is when the force of the blood flowing through the blood vessels is persistently too high. It is normal for blood pressure to fluctuate; therefore high blood pressure is only diagnosed when it remains high on several occasions or when it is dangerously high on one occasion.


What harm does high blood pressure do?

High blood pressure causes damage to the blood vessels, including the blood vessels inside some of the organs such as the eyes, the kidneys and the brain. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and blindness. The increased workload can also weaken the heart and lead to heart failure. Tiredness, shortness of breath and swollen ankles are often experienced. Blood pressure medication should always be taken exactly as prescribed and should not be stopped or changed unless advised to do so by a medical doctor.


What can you do to improve your blood pressure?

    • Eat a healthy balanced diet
    • Cut down on salt
    • Get active
    • Be Smoke Free
    • Achieve and maintain and healthy weight
    • Manage stress
    • Take medications regularly
    • Know your numbers- monitor your blood pressure


E: Remember to exercise! Getting your heart pumping is really important for heart health. Help encourage others to exercise by doing it together. Take your kids for walks and bike rides or sign up for the gym with a friend.​

Being active is one of the most valuable things you can do to look after your heart. Getting active should become a regular habit and a way of life. Any activity that gets you slightly out of breath and the heart pumping, counts!

Being active helps you to help maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease. Getting active should become a regular habit and a way of life. Any activity that gets you slightly out of breath and the heart pumping faster, counts.  Try brisk walking, cycling, gym classes, soccer, swimming, dancing, gardening or playing an active game with the kids!

In South Africa, over a quarter of men and almost half of women are physically inactive. The heart is a muscle and needs exercise to stay fit and healthy. The heart of someone who exercises regularly will beat 45-50 times per minute compared to someone who does not exercise regularly and whose heart will beat 70-75 times per minute. This means 36 000 extra beats per day and 13 million extra beats every year!

Physical INactivity is linked with:

  • Increases the chance of developing many disease, including high blood pressure, overweight and obesity, diabetes, cancers, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease
  • Linked with depression, anxiety and stress disorders

How much exercise do I need?

Health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, but additional benefits occur with more physical activity.

  • Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, which can be spread over the week however you like. E.g. 30 minutes 5 days per week.


  • At least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week e.g. 25 minutes 3 days per week


  • Muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 or more days per week for additional health benefits. 


Which types of exercise work best?

  • Any type of physical activity is good – anything that makes you move your body and increases the amount of energy (kilojoules) your body uses.
  • Walking, dancing, gardening, cycling, swimming, team sports such as soccer or rugby, and other similar activities, including your daily household chores, are just some examples of simple but effective physical activity and can all contribute to your wellbeing and general fitness.

Moderate intensity aerobic activity Requires a moderate amount of effort, and causes a noticeable increase in the heart rate and a light sweat. You should be able to talk but not sing while doing activity at this level. On a scale relative to your personal capacity it's usually 11-14 on a scale of 1 to 20.

  • Brisk walking, dancing, slow cycling, water aerobics, walking your dog
  • Housework and domestic chores, gardening (raking leaves, mowing the lawn)
  • General building tasks (e.g. painting, roofing), carrying or moving moderate loads (<20kg)
  • Using a manual wheelchair

Vigorous intensity aerobic activity Requires a large amount of effort, causes rapid breathing and a substantial increase in heart rate. You should be able to say a few words without stopping to catch your breath while doing activity at this level. On a scale relative to your personal capacity, it's usually 17-19 on a scale of 1 to 20.

  • Running, race walking, jogging, fast dancing, fast cycling, aerobics
  • Walking, hiking or cycling uphill
  • Competitive sports and games, martial arts
  • Heavy gardening (shovelling, digging or hoeing), carrying or moving heavy loads (>20kg)

Tips to get more active in everyday life!!!

  • Find a friend or family member to exercise with, and choose activities you find to be fun, and try listening to music while you exercise.
  • Start slowly and set realistic goals that you can work towards.
  • Remember to wear comfortable clothes and properly fitted foot ware.
  • Walk to visit a friend instead of phoning them, this saves money too.
  • Walk with your child to school or to the shop, this way you get to spend more quality time with them too.
  • Get off the bus, taxi or train one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
  • Walk instead of taking a taxi, this also saves money.
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift.
  • If you use a car, park further away from the entrance to the shopping mall.​
Doing some physical activity is better than doing nothing at all!

You should go see a doctor if:

  • You are middle aged or older, are inactive, at high risk of heart disease or you already have a medical condition, you should seek medical advice before you start exercise or significantly increase your physical activity.

Most healthy people of any age can exercise in moderate levels without consulting a doctor first.

S: Reduce your salt intake! You can do this by eating healthy whole foods and avoiding processed and fast foods. By encouraging healthy eating and reduced salt you can improve your heart health and teach good habits to others.

A high salt intake is linked to high blood pressure!

Reduce you salt intake to no more than 5g of salt, from all sources, per day:

  • Reduce salt added to your food during cooking and at the table
  • Make use of fresh and dried herbs, spices, garlic or lemon juice to add flavour to your food, without adding extra salt and salty seasoning like chicken or BBQ(braai) sauce. 
  • Foods like packet soups, stock cubes, gravies, cheese and many breakfast cereals, breads, salty snacks, processed meats and fast foods are very high in salt and should be used sparingly. ​

S: Stop smoking. When you quit, they quit. Lead a positive example for the younger generation by not smoking. Smoking is still a leading killer in South Africa and can have negative effects on your blood pressure.  You can also minimize the harmful effects of second hand smoke by not smoking around others.

Smoking is the second leading cause of cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease, after high blood pressure. Therefore, to quit smoking is one of the best things you can do for your heart and health. It's never too late to quit smoking because quitting almost immediately provides benefits and if you persevere, over time your risk of heart disease and stroke can fall almost identical to that of a non-smoker. The Heart and Stroke Foundation SA encourages all South Africans to avoid smoking or the use of other tobacco products and to protect yourself and your family from exposure to second-hand smoke, or passive smoking. Both smoking and passive smoking pose very real dangers to your health as well as those around you!

  • Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally and is currently responsible for killing 1 in 10 adults worldwide, or 1 person every 6 seconds.
  • Smoking kills more than half of all people before the age of 60 if they smoke through their adult life.
  • On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than non-smokers.
  • The risk for heart disease is 25% higher in female smokers than in male smokers.
  • The risk of a non-fatal heart attack increases by 5.6% for every cigarette smoked and persists even at only one to two cigarettes per day.

Cigarettes contain more than 4000 dangerous chemicals, including nicotine which is an extremely addictive substance with numerous harmful effects and is present in all tobacco products. 

  • Smoking almost triples the risk of heart disease and more than doubles the risk of having a stroke.
  • It narrows blood vessels, leading to raised blood pressure and expands blood clots, causing the cardiovascular equivalent of a traffic jam on the highway to your heart and brain. Reduce blood flow to the heart and you risk having a heart attack. Reduce it to the brain and you risk having a stroke.
  • Smoking can lead to numerous forms of cancer, in addition to many other negative health effects such as impotence, fertility problems, oral health problems, increased risk for other infections such as TB or pneumonia and chronic lung disease. 
  • Non-smokers who breathe second-hand smoke suffer many of the diseases of active smoking. Second-hand smoke causes a wide variety of health problems in children including bronchitis and pneumonia, exacerbation of asthma, middle ear infections, and glue ear, the most common cause of deafness in children.
  • Babies born to mothers who smoke, or who are exposed to second-hand smoke while pregnant are more likely to be underweight, premature or stillborn. There is also an association with the risk of miscarriage and may even harm the intellectual and behavioural development of the child. In addition, the child has a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome, breathing problems and developing lung disease or diabetes later in his or her life.

Benefits of quitting:

  • Financial rewards. Think of all the money you'll save if you stop smoking. Put the cash you'd spend on cigarettes in a jar, set a goal and reward yourself with a treat after you have saved enough money. You deserve it!
  • Health benefits:
    • 30 minutes: heart rate and blood pressure recovers from cigarette-induced spike.
    • 12 hours: the amount of oxygen in the blood increases, blood flow starts to improve and chance of having a heart attack begins to go down.
    • 24 hours: carbon monoxide will be eliminated from the body and lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris.
    • 48 hours: all the nicotine has gone out of the body and sense of taste and smell greatly improves.
    • 3 days: breathing becomes easier as tubes in the lungs begin to relax and energy levels begin to increase.
    • 2 to 12 weeks: blood circulation improves and lung function increases by up to 30%.
    • 3 months: the tiny hairs which clean the lungs begin to grow back and remove phlegm and tar that have collected there which results in clear and deeper breathing gradually returning.
    • 1 year: the risk of heart disease falls by 50%.
    • 5 years: the risk of mouth, throat, oesophagus, and bladder cancer are cut in half. The risk of cervical cancer and stroke return to normal.
    • 10 years: the risk of lung cancer will have halved compared to someone who still smokes.
    • 15 years: the risk of heart disease or stroke is almost the same as a non-smoker.
    • Social benefits: say goodbye to excusing yourself from non-smoking friends and colleagues to go take a smoke break. Your car, house and clothes won't smell of smoke. You will experience improved confidence, self-esteem and a great sense of accomplishment.

Tips to help quit smoking:

  • Make a firm decision to quit and set a date.
  • List the reasons why you smoke and why you want to quit.
  • Decide on a strategy: whether you will stop gradually or suddenly – quitting altogether is best, but cutting down still reduces harm.
  • Ask for the support of friends and family. People who have support with their effort to quit are much more likely to give up smoking successfully than those who don't. If you live with a person who smokes encourage him or her to quit with you – it's much easier to do it with someone else.
  • Talk to an ex-smoker. If they can do it, so can you.
  • Throw away all reminders of smoking – cigarette packets, ashtrays, lighters etc.
  • Plan: identify triggers and plan how you are going to deal with them as well as cravings to smoke.
  • Occupy your mouth: Stock up on oral substitutes e.g. sugar-free gum, nuts, fruit, carrot sticks, a water bottle to sip from.
  • Occupy your hands: Hold a pen, pencil, and rubber band or a stress ball. Doodle, sketch or draw. Buy an adult colouring book.
  • Occupy your mind: Remind yourself why you decided to quit smoking. Think about how proud you will feel to get through the day without a cigarette.
  • Keep active: Make exercise part of your new routine because smokers who exercise are twice as successful in their attempts to quit Smoking. It speeds up the body's metabolism and quitting causes the metabolism to return to its normal, slower speed. Physical activity helps to speed up your metabolism, preventing weight gain and occupies your mind and body to help handle cravings. 
  • Avoid situations where you will be tempted to smoke again – people and places – at least for the first few weeks. Ask smokers for their patience and understanding by not smoking in front of you. 
  • Avoid alcohol: Alcohol is often strongly associated with smoking.
  • Treat yourself: Use the money that you are saving by not smoking to buy yourself something special.
  • Get advice: Speak to a nurse, doctor, or counsellor who is trained to help people quit smoking. They can encourage you to keep going and give you advice about how to deal with problems.
  • Consider using Nicotine Replacement Therapy or other cessation aids.
  • Keep trying! Most people attempt to quit 8-10 times before they are successful! With each time they learn something valuable, which can help for the next time.​

T: Talk about it! Make sure you discuss heart health with friends and family. Take initiative in looking after each other so we can all give healthier for longer. Spread these messages at home, at work and with friends to encourage a healthy heart lifestyle.

For more information:

World Heart Federation​

Heart and Stroke Foundation