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Written by: Marie

Marie is from Cape Town, South Africa. She has taught English as a second language in a variety of settings, including a kindergarten, after school language academy (in South Korea) and at a world famous language school for adults in her hometown. She is able to help students of all ages and levels. She can help you or your child with English grammar, British or American pronunciation or any type of English test preparation. She especially enjoys Business English and IELTS preparation. She has seven years teaching experience with all ages, levels and nationalities.

Heart and stroke fast facts:

  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading global  cause of death, accounting for 17.3 million  deaths per year, a number that is expected to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030.
  •  About 2,150 Americans die each day from these diseases, one every 40 seconds.
  •  Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined. 

Causes or risk factors of heart disease



Worldwide, tobacco smoking (including second hand smoke) was one of the top three leading risk factors for disease and contributed to an estimated 6.2 million deaths in 2010.

16 percent of students grades 9-12 report being current smokers. Among adults, 20 percent of men and 16 percent of women are smokers.  

 In 2012 there were approximately 6,300 new cigarette smokers every day. 

No physical activity

Worldwide, about one in every five adults reports participating in no leisure time physical activity. 

Only about 27 percent of the worldwide population of teenagers meet the American Heart Association recommendation of 60 minutes of exercise every day.



Unhealthy diets

Eating patterns have changed dramatically in recent decades. Research from 1971 to 2004 showed that women consumed an average of 22 percent more calories in that span and men consumed and average of 10 percent more. 

Of the 5 components of a healthy diet, reducing sodium and increasing whole grains are the biggest challenges. 


In 2008, an estimated 1.46 billion adults worldwide were overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity was estimated at 205 million men and 297 million women.


High cholesterol

High cholesterol comes from a variety of sources, including your family history and what you eat.

 You will find this unhealthy fat in foods that come from animals. Beef, pork, veal, milk, eggs, butter, and cheese contain saturated fat. Packaged foods that contain coconut oil, palm oil, or cocoa butter may have a lot of saturated fat. You will also find saturated fat in stick margarine, vegetable shortening, and most cookies, crackers, chips, and other snacks.


High blood pressure

 Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day, but it can damage your heart and cause health problems if it stays high for a long time. High blood pressure is also called hypertension.

Worldwide, raised blood pressure is estimated to cause 7.5 million deaths, about 12.8% of the total of all deaths.



The prevalence of diabetes for adults worldwide was estimated to be 6.4 percent in 2010 and is projected to be 7.7 percent in 2030. 

 African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and other ethnic minorities bear a disproportionate burden of diabetes in the U.S.



How to decrease the risk of heart disease:

  • Improve your cholesterol levels
  • Control your high blood pressure
  • Get active 
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet 
  • Get to a healthy weight 
  • Control your diabetes 
  • Manage stress and anger




Aug. 21, 2012 — Talk show host Rosie O’Donnell, 50, advised women via her web site on Monday to learn the symptoms of heart attack and heed them after revealing she ignored her own and now feels ”lucky to be here.”

O’Donnell suffered what she called a “widow maker” heart attack a week ago, she told fans. She googled ”women’s heart attack symptoms” and, although the list matched hers, simply took an aspirin.


Oct. 26, 2004 — — Former President Clinton realizes the warning signs of heart disease began long before he had quadruple heart bypass surgery, and he has one message for the public: Don’t ignore your body.

“The number one thing I would say to people is if you’ve got a family history, you gotta be tested, tested, tested,” Clinton told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview that aired today on “Good Morning America.”


King suffers from heart disease and regularly receives angiogram to monitor his heart’s health. In 1987, he underwent a quintuple-bypass surgery following a major heart attack. In 2017, he underwent a successful surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his lung.


“The 3 1/2-hour heart surgery was conducted to replace his aortic valve, repair his mitral valve, and correct his irregular heartbeat,” A. Marc Gillinov, MD, a staff cardiothoracic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, says in the news release.

In early March, Williams postponed upcoming performances of his one-man show, “Weapons of Self-Destruction,” announcing that he needed to undergo surgery for an aortic valve replacement.


Bret Michaels went under the knife in a Phoenix, Ariz. hospital on Monday — and he’s recovering well.

Surgeons at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center worked to repair a hole in the rocker’s heart — one that’s been there since birth, but was discovered just last April, when Michaels, 47, was hospitalized for a brain hemorrhage.


TUESDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) — Former President George W. Bush underwent heart surgery Tuesday morning after an artery blockage was discovered during his annual physical.

Bush had a stent placed in an artery during the procedure, which was done at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. The procedure was successfully completed “without complications” and Bush was “in high spirits,” according to a statement released by his office.



2,500-1,000 B.C.E.

The Egyptians believed the heart, or the ieb, was the center of life and morality. Egyptian mythology states that after death, your heart is taken to the Hall of Maat, the goddess of justice. There your heart is weighed against the Feather of Maat. If your heart is lighter than the Feather, you join Osiris in the afterlife. If you fail the test on the scales, then the demon Ammut eats your heart, and your soul vanishes from existence.

400-200 B.C.E.

Ancient Greeks held the heart to be the center of the soul and the source of heat within the body. They also made some clever medical assertions. Scholars and physicians such as Hippocrates and Aristotle saw the connection between the heart and lungs and seemed to be aware of its pumping action.


The image of the heart became very important in Christian theology. The Sacred Heart, which is usually seen emitting ethereal light and suffering from wounds, is seen as a symbol for Jesus Christ and his love. Devotion to the Sacred Heart reaches a high point in the Middle Ages, where it is seen in works of art and is mentioned constantly in prayers and doctrine. It remains an icon even today.


Scholars began to question accepted views of the heart. Scholars and physicians such as Andreas Vesalius, the father of modern anatomy, and Michael Servitus made several key observations about the anatomy of the heart, while Leonardo da Vinci becomes the first artist to draw a truly accurate sketch of the organ.


The Western cultural idea of the heart has taken on innumerable meanings. It was the center of all functions, feelings, and thoughts. It was the seat of the soul and the center of courage and intellect, the “Prince of all Bowels.” Arguably, the heart is the single most important word in the human language referring to the mind and the body.


The popular icon of the heart continued to be important in many cultures. In the Voodoo religion, the heart became the symbol of Erzulie, the loa of love, beauty, and purity. In Africa, the Asante people of Ghana developed Adinkra, the hand-embroidered cloth that represents social thought and Asante beliefs. The heart icon became a major Adinkra symbol, representing love and closely resembling the symbol for wisdom.


The leap in modern medicine owes much to World War II. Doctors were forced to adapt and improve their methods under wartime conditions, and pioneered improvements in anesthesia, antibiotics, and blood transfusions. Several surgeons, such as Dwight Harken, attempted to operate on heart wounds, sometimes even successfully. These advances helped pave the road towards modern cardiac surgery.

Functions Of the Human Heart

The heart is a muscle (a little larger than the fist). Like any other muscle in the human body, it contracts and expands. each time the heart contracts it does so with all its force.

 The pumping of the heart is called the Cardiac Cycle, which occurs about 72 times per minute. This means that each cycle lasts about eight-tenths of a second. During this cycle the entire heart actually rests for about four-tenths of a second. 

The heart pumps the blood, which carries all the vital materials which help our bodies function and removes the waste products that we do not need

 For example, the brain requires oxygen and glucose, which, if not received continuously, will cause it to loose consciousness. 

Muscles need oxygen, glucose and amino acids, as well as the proper ratio of sodium, calcium and potassium salts in order to contract normally. 

If the heart ever ceases to pump blood the body begins to shut down and after a very short period of time will die.


The doctor who put the spotlight on South Africa

Professor Christiaan Barnard

Christiaan Neethling Barnard was born in the town of Beaufort West, on the edge of the great Karoo, the dry and arid interior of South Africa, in 1922.

His father was a preacher and there were 5 boys in the family.  One of his brothers, Abraham, died at the age of five from a heart disease. This may have been the reason for Chris’s future career choices.

He did well at school , studied music and played sport, and decided on leaving school to study medicine at the University of Cape Town. 

Christiaan graduated from the Beaufort West High School in 1940 and in 1946 completed his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB, ChB) at the University of Cape Town. 

The family was by no means rich and the young Chris Barnard had to walk five miles to University each day. He was not an outstanding student, but worked hard.

He served his internship at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. 

He married Aletta Louw in 1948 and they had two children, Andre and Deirdre. After his marriage he moved to the picturesque town of Ceres, in the Western Cape, where he served as a family physician until 1951. 

He returned to Cape Town in 1951 and worked at the City Hospital as the Senior Resident Medical Officer and the Registrar, Department of Medicine at Groote Schuur Hospital. 

He continued to study in the evenings and received the degree, Master of Medicine (MMed) from the University of Cape Town in 1953. In the same year he got his MD (Doctor of Medicine) degree from the same university for a dissertation entitled “The treatment of tuberulous Meningitis”. 

After receiving these degrees, he was given a promotion to that of Registrar (resident) in the Department of Surgery, under Professor J. Erasmus, at Groote Schuur Hospital, in Cape Town. 

In 1956 he received a Charles Adams Memorial Scholarshop and a Dazian Foundation Bursary for a two year study in the United States of America.

Leaving his small family behind, Doctor Chris Barnard travelled to America where he spent, according the man himself, “the most fascinating time in his life”

He was trained in cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis in Minnesota and received his Master of Science in Surgery in 1958, 

In the same year he was awarded Doctor of Philosophy. 

When he earned his Ph.D. in 1958, he was called into Wangensteen’s office and told that he would need some proper equipment and research funds if he was to do advanced surgery in Cape Town. 

$2,000 in research funds and a heart-lung machine awaited his arrival at the University of Cape Town Medical School. 

He continued to work at Groote Schuur Hospital, this time as a specialist in cardiothoracic surgery, and was a full-time lecture and Director of Surgical Research at the University of Cape Town.



In 1967 he led the surgical team that performed the first human-to-human heart transplant. 

Professor Chris Barnard became a household name throughout the world and the unknown surgeon became an international superstar overnight.

The Patient

His name was Louis Washkansky

He was the world’s first human heart transplant recipient.

He was of Lithuanian Jewish extraction, Louis Washkansky came to South Africa aged 9.

He became a grocer in Cape Town, Greenpoint. 

Washkansky saw active service in WW2 in East and North Africa, and Italy. 

His wife Ann, he met and married after the war.

Louis Washkansky- the ideal candidate

He loved soccer, swimming and weightlifting and lived an active life until his first heart attack.

In 1965 a third and very severe heart attack left him suffering from congestive cardiac failure. 

Louis Washkansky first visited Groote Schuur Hospital in April 1966, he had a illness called Cheyne-Stokes which was caused by heart failure. 

Imagine this man who everyone had given up on, there was nothing the cardiac team could do for him, yet Louis refused to die.

Louis was 53 years old, a well build man, who never told his wife much about how he felt, in fact he would lie and always say he was fine. Although he knew he was running into trouble, but he wasn’t the kind of man to cry about it – not to himself or anybody else.

Louis enjoyed going to football matches, drinking a bit and smoking. He suffered a heart attack and then drove himself to hospital and took the stairs rather than the lift and collapsed. He was lucky on that occasion as he survived, although he was advised he probably wouldn’t survive another attack.

Then November 1967 Christiaan Barnard was ready to perform a heart transplant and Louis was considered to be an ideal candidate.

The World’s Most Famous Heart

Denise lived in Cape Town, South Africa with her mother, father, and her younger brother.

 She worked as a bank clerk and one of her hobbies was designing and making her own clothes.

On December 3rd 1967, Denise and her family were invited to afternoon tea at a friends house. 

Denise had a new car and she liked to drive to places. Denise and her younger brother, Keith, were in the front singing while they drove, with Mr. and Mrs. Darvall sitting in the back. 

On the way to their friends house, they decided to stop and buy a cake as a gift for their friends.

Denise pulled over on the left hand side of the road, her and her mother got out of the car and crossed over to a bakery leaving her dad and brother in the car waiting.


When returning to the car with the cake they were both hit by a car. 

Denise was thrown across the road. This caused a serious injury to her head. An ambulance arrived and took her to Groote Schuur Hospital.

Mr Darvall travelled in the ambulance to the hospital with his wife and daughter.

On arriving at the hospital he was told his wife had died at the scene of the accident. 

His daughter was rushed into a small emergency room, but sadly the brain specialist confirmed her injuries were too severe and that she wouldn’t survive.


Dr Bosman then went to tell Mr George Darvall the bad news. Mr Darvall was asked about transplantation and whether the hospital could use her heart and kidney to save the lives of two other patients.

He knew his wife’s wishes, as she had told him she wanted to be cremated, but he had no idea what his daughter would have wanted.

It only took him about 4 minutes to decide. He remembered a birthday cake she had once made with a heart on it and the words ‘DADDY WE LOVE YOU’. He also remembered a bathrobe she had brought him with her first weeks wages, she was like that. Always giving things to other people, so he decided to say yes.

“Well, Doctor, if you can’t save my daughter please do save the other patients.” 

Mr Darvall never regretted donating Denise’s heart, he said, “I could never have forgiven myself if I hadn’t.” 

Louis Washkansky was the recipient of Denise’s heart and a young boy received her kidney.

How is a heart transplant performed?


The patient is placed under anesthesia.

A breathing tube will be inserted into the mouth and down the windpipe to maintain an airway.

An incision is made through the chest and breastbone (sternum), and the ribs are separated.

A heart-lung machine will take over the functions of the heart and lungs, freeing the heart from its normal function so that it can be removed. 

When the new heart is in position  and the blood is connected, the heart incision is closed, the heart is restarted and blood circulation and oxygen are restored. 

Once the blood is flowing through the new heart normally and without any leaks, the heart-lung machine is disconnected and the chest incision is closed.


Louis Washanski lived for another 18 days.

He died from pneumonia on the 21st of December 1967. 

The operation was considered a surgical success  as his heart was beating and working independently.

Dr. Christiaan Barnard continued to make pioneering medical breakthroughs.

He also became a worldwide celebrity overnight.

Heart transplants are now common procedures in most countries.

Retirement: The end of an era

 Barnard retired as Head of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery in Cape Town in 1983 after developing rheumatoid arthritis in his hands which ended his surgical career. 

Barnard divided the remainder of his years between Austria, where he established the Christian Barnard Foundation, dedicated to helping underprivileged children throughout the world, and his game farm in Beaufort West, South Africa.

Christiaan Barnard died on 2 September 2001, while on holiday in Cyprus. Early reports stated that he had died of a heart attack, but an autopsy showed his death was caused by a severe asthma attack.


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