HEART disease and stroke affect both men and women around the world and, according a report from Angels Initiative, stroke is the fourth biggest natural cause of death in South Africa, where every 360 people are affected and 110 die. With October 29 being World Stroke Day, Mediclinic Victoria Hospital has urged residents to test for blood pressure and cholesterol at hospitals. Patient experience officer at Mediclinic Victoria Hospital Sandy Naicker encouraged the community to take the first step in healing their heart by adopting some form of exercise. “You need to exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day at least five days a week to promote a healthy heart. Exercise is more effective at reducing the risks for heart disease than any pills a doctor can prescribe. “In addition, simple changes such as a balanced diet, avoiding saturated fats and leaving cigarettes behind can all have a large impact on your health,” Naicker said. Naicker also warned women to take into account factors such as obesity and menopause.“An annual cholesterol screening test is important, especially if you’re over 35. Discuss the results with a trained medical professional who will consider your results in combination with other risk factors. “Having consistently high blood pressure, regardless of whether it’s caused by lifestyle or familial factors, will increase your risk,” Naicker said.