The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging everyone to take positive steps to protect their heart during National Heart Month.
In Northern Ireland coronary heart disease is still a major killer, despite the overall numbers of deaths having dropped significantly over the past 30 years.
During February the PHA is calling for people to follow a number of steps in a bid to reduce their chances of developing the disease.
Step 1: Don’t smoke. Smoking is a major risk factor and, the more cigarettes you smoke, the higher the risk, according to Dr Adrian Mairs, Consultant in Public Health with responsibility for cardiovascular disease in the PHA. “The reduction in smoking over the past number of years through public education, stop smoking programmes and smoke free legislation has had a major impact on reducing deaths from heart disease. However, 26% of the adult population in Northern Ireland still smoke, putting them at risk of developing the disease.”
Step 2: Get your blood pressure checked. “People who suffer from high blood pressure also run an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. High blood pressure is a silent, but treatable condition. In order to minimise the risk, I would urge everyone over the age of 45 to have their blood pressure measured every five years by their GP,” said Dr Mairs.
Step 3: Live healthy. Lifestyle changes will reduce the risk of heart disease, eg eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, avoiding saturated fats, limiting alcohol intake and taking at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Dr Mairs described the reduction in deaths from coronary heart disease over the past few years as “a big success story”. “It shows that people can take very positive steps to reduce their risk of heart disease by getting their blood pressure checked and adopting a healthier lifestyle; in particular by not smoking,” he added. “The message is clear during National Heart Month - you only have one heart and you can take steps to keep it healthy.”
Contact the Public Health Agency Press Office on 028 9031 1611.
Notes to the editor
1 Statistics have shown that mortality from coronary heart disease is twice as high in deprived areas in Northern Ireland compared to the more affluent areas.
2 National Heart Month takes place throughout the month of February.