Knowing how to protect yourself from the top causes of death in South Africa could, literally, be the difference between life and death. Nobody likes to think about death or diseases, but the truth is that the best way to avoid these things is to educate yourself. That's why we're here to clue you in to what these ‘top killers’ are, and help you learn how to protect yourself. If you're concerned about your health, read on!
Top Causes of Death in South Africa Number 1: HIV and AIDS
It should come as no surprise that when it comes to the top causes of death in South Africa, HIV and AIDS are still the leading killers, even though many people are learning to live with HIV. HIV infection comes from exposure to infected bodily fluids, and eventually leads to AIDS. AIDS damages the body's immune system, meaning that AIDS patients often die from other diseases that their bodies can't fight.
However, protecting yourself from HIV is easier than ever these days. Always practise safe sex (use a condom), never share needles in any form, and if you're exposed to a bodily fluid of someone that is infected, go to the doctor (saliva does not put you at risk, nor does touching an ‘infected’ toilet seat or anything else that an HIV person has touched – so do not over exaggerate). Taking suppressant drugs straight after exposure will prevent HIV infection. Even after HIV infection has already occurred, with the right medication doctors can delay the development of AIDS for years and people can still live relatively normal lives (and it's even perfectly normal these days that HIV and AIDS sufferers can get life insurance) – but still, better to be safe.
Top Causes of Death in South Africa Number 2: Heart Attacks and Heart Disease
Heart attacks, often known as ischaemic heart disease, are the second leading cause of death in South Africa. When a heart attack occurs the flow of blood to the heart is restricted, leading to death of the heart tissue. With enough tissue damage the heart can no longer do its job, usually meaning death for the patient.
Heart attacks happen for many reasons, and the factors that contribute most are smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, stress/blood pressure, genetics and poor diet. To protect yourself that means not smoking, exercising, keeping calm, testing for blood pressure issues, eating sensibly and getting tested if there is a history of heart attacks in your family. Be aware of heart attack warning signs such as chest pain, difficulty breathing and pain in the left arm. If caught soon enough, doctors can limit the amount of damage done to the heart during a heart attack and the patient can survive.
Top Causes of Death in South Africa Number 3: Strokes
A stroke happens when the blood supply in the brain is interrupted. When parts of the brain don't receive blood they become damaged. Moderate damage leads to things like loss of speech or of mobility, but more severe damage leads to death.
There are many stroke causes, not all of them preventable, unfortunately. Major causes are blood clots that travel through the body until they reach the brain, and narrowing of the arteries. The best way to protect yourself against strokes is again to stop smoking, to eat a diet that's low in cholesterol and to do the required medical check-ups (based on your age group). If you have diabetes, make sure you take your medication, exercise, and, of course, get insurance for people with Diabetes.
Top Causes of Death in South Africa Number 4: Tuberculosis
The fourth leading cause of death in South Africa is tuberculosis. This is a bacterial disease, which means that you can catch it from other people. The disease causes growths, generally in the lungs, though you can get tuberculosis infections in other areas of the body as well, including on the spine.
Fortunately, tuberculosis preventable through existing, and effective vaccination. Even if you have been vaccinated, however, you should undergo chest X-rays if you're exposed to TB. Caught early, TB is responsive to treatment. Of course, if you know that a certain area is TB infected, you should do your best to stay away, as well as steering clear of TB infected people that are still contagious.
Top Causes of Death in South Africa Number 5: Lung Infection
The last of the top five causes of death in South Africa is lung infections. These are basically infections that damage the lung tissue until it becomes impossible for the patient to breathe alone. There are many causes for lung infections. Many AIDS patients die of lung infections such as pneumonia, for example.
Protecting yourself against lung infections can be difficult, since there are many kinds of infections with different causes. However, not smoking and keeping up an exercise regime will help keep your lungs in good shape, and you'll be better able to fight an infection should you catch one.
What About Cancer?
You might be surprised not to see cancer in the list of the top five causes of death in the country. This is because cancer comes in many forms and statisticians count each form of cancer as a different statistic, rather than counting all cancers together. If all kinds of cancers were considered then this would certainly appear towards the top of the list, if not at the top.
Cancer is what happens when cells in the body multiply without stopping, which causes growths or tumours. These tumours spread, and if not treated will eventually grow into the brain or heart muscle.
Protecting yourself from cancer can also be tough although you can definitely improve your chances by not smoking, eating healthy and doing the relevant check-ups (such as mammograms to check for breast cancer) if you have a family history of cancer .
Although you can't completely eliminate the risk of having one of these dread diseases (touch wood), in most cases, living a healthy lifestyle and doing the relevant check-ups on time will greatly improve your chances of staying healthy. Additionally, having good health insurance is essential, especially with all the costs involved. You should also consider adding life insurance as well, just to ensure that your family is taken care of. Many life insurance policies include dread disease coverage to help pay medical bills (you can read about dread disease coverage on our life insurance terms and definitions page).
The good news is that for some of these conditions, South Africa is reporting declines in death rates. For HIV and tuberculosis especially, good prevention programmes have meant that fewer people are dying each year from these preventable conditions. For other conditions, however, it's up to you to live a healthy life and hopefully avoid a dread disease.
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Main Subject: Top Causes of Death in South Africa