Heart failure deaths rock Botswana youth

16th May 2017
Heart Source:The Midweek Sun


By Rachel Raditsebe -

A29-year old IT expert in a private firm in Gaborone, Koketso Moroke dismissed her mysterious chest pains as indigestion. But sadly, she was suffering from a heart attack.

"I had chest pains and could not breathe properly. I felt lightheaded, a little nauseous and when I got to the clinic, the doctor told me those were some of the symptoms of a heart attack,” said Moroke.

Heart attacks are usually associated with the elderly because their blood vessels continue to thin out with age as they enter their sunset years. For the young, sitting down for long hours is emerging as the lead cause of increased incidences of high blood pressure, diabetes and increases the risk of heart attack. Moroke, who spends most of her working day sitting at a desk in her office, says her heart attack began suddenly. Cardiologist, Dr Kodancha Rao blames a sedentary lifestyle, which he says has led to increased cases of heart attack amongst many young people.

Whereas heart diseases used to be prevalent in the elderly, latest statistics shows that 60 per cent of the patients attending public and private hospitals are aged between 20- 40 years and are suffering from chest pains and mild chest pains that signify an early onset of heart disease. He observed that the country has reached a level where cases of heart attack are now as common as any other disease.

“This is a new disease phenomenon that is slowly becoming deadly by the day,” he said. This trend is worrying heart experts who are now sounding a warning bell over the frequency of heart attacks amongst the young population which is slowly reaching the “epidemic levels”. They urge prevention over cure or management of the condition, which they say, comes at a steep price. In the past two weeks, two deaths of young people dying from heart failure were reported.

In the first incident over a week ago, a Township Rollers soccer player collapsed at training and was certified dead of heart failure at hospital. Hardly two days after his burial on Saturday, another young life was claimed by the disease in Mahalapye on Monday when a soccer player for Santa Green club in Division One League also collapsed and died of a suspected heart failure.  According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) coronary heart diseases in Botswana had claimed 710 lives in a 2014 report.

The country however lacks accurate and updated statistics on the incidences of heart attack and it’s feared the number could now be higher. To address behavioural risk factors, Dr Rao advised people especially professionals who spend a great deal of their time sitting down to have a thorough exercise regime. “Physical inactivity increases the risk of heart attack and strokes,” said Dr Rao. He advised the working class to engage in physical activity at least 30 minutes every day of the week and this will help prevent heart attacks.

He said it is important for people to be sensitised on the best way to avoid heart attacks. “It must start from childhood by guiding children to avoid taking too much sugar, salt and avoid sitting down without exercising,” he said. “Most people have adopted what they perceive to be trendy lifestyles and consider junk food to be cool but has more cholesterol, sodium and preservatives which lead to high blood pressure and increases chances of heart attack,” said Dr Mercy Lefenyo.

Apart from these factors, Dr Lefenyo, a dietician, attributed the rise of heart attacks to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cigarette smoking and eating food rich in animal fat. She urged young people to avoid refined foods, which have lots of calories and instead eat food of good nutritional value. “Excess consumption of red meat should be avoided,” she added. She said eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and limiting salt intake to less than one teaspoon a day also prevents heart attack. She advised young people to eat white meat such as free-range chicken, fish, vegetables and fruits.

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