Roughly 18 million people die of a cardiovascular disease (CVD) around the world each year. Additionally, obesity rates are on the rise in South Africa and over two-thirds of women and nearly one-third of men are classified as overweight or obese, raising people’s risk of CVD.
Furthermore, leading a sedentary lifestyle has been shown to increase all causes of mortality and doubles the risk of CVDs. Notably, around 60% to 85% of people around the world lead sedentary lifestyles, which are marked by an overabundance of sitting, lying, or simply reclining for extended periods of time other than for sleep. Yet according to the World Health Organization, approximately two million deaths per year are attributed to sedentary lifestyle choices.
“There is a rising concern in South Africa that people’s overall health is on the decline and that, especially, their blood pressure levels are on the rise. With so many families impacted and lives altered by CVDs, be it heart attacks, strokes, thrombosis or other diseases, a change urgently needs to be made,” says Sibonile Dube, Novartis Head of Communications and Engagement for the Middle East and Africa.
Unblocking the barriers to a healthy lifestyle
With the aim of addressing and raising awareness about this growing problem, leading pharmaceutical company Novartis therefore launched its new global Unblocked movement. The initiative was co-created with external healthcare stakeholders to unblock various barriers that bar many people attaining better cardiovascular health.
Rising to the challenge and embracing the company’s commitment to promoting healthier lifestyles, some Novartis employees from Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg thus joined in the countrywide Unblocked APMA Challenge on Friday, 17 March to get their blood pumping, bodies moving, and to help raise awareness around lifestyle choices and their effects on heart health.
In friendly competition with their colleagues in Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Philippines, the South African team took on a series of fitness and wellness challenges. This began with joining an hour-long walk from their various offices, while some headed to their local gym, and others to the beach for a swim and activities in the sand.
“Beyond the challenge, our individual participants have also been able to form teams via the social fitness app GoJoe. Here they can track their progress, encourage their colleagues and friends, and participate in friendly competition through the app’s leaderboard,” explains Dube.
Five tips for living the Unblocked way
For anyone looking to live a healthier, unblocked lifestyle, there are a few simple changes that could be made today to improve your heart health and general well-being, such as:
- Avoiding excessive alcohol intake. Studies have shown that consuming more than 100 grams of alcohol, or roughly seven drinks per week can be dangerous.
- Restricting or stopping smoking. The inhalation of chemicals through smoking significantly increases the likelihood of developing heart disease as it damages your heart and blood vessels.
- Reducing consumption of foods high in saturated fat. Your body needs healthy fats, but too much saturated fat can raise your cholesterol, which raises your risk of heart diseases.
- Eating more healthy foods. Leafy greens are usually rich in vitamin K, which help protect the arteries. Whole grains have various benefits, such as lowering the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Fatty fish and fish oil contain Omega-3 fatty acids that help lower the risk of CVDs.
- Increasing physical activity. It is important for adults to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.
The Unblocked movement by Novartis serves as a call to action for more people to take control of their health and make positive lifestyle changes. With the growing concern of cardiovascular diseases in sedentary lifestyles, it is crucial to prioritize physical activity and healthy eating habits.