The number of deaths from coronary heart disease in Northern Ireland has dropped significantly, according to recent figures. However, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging everyone to take steps to protect their heart and reduce their chances of developing the disease during National Heart Month (February).
Despite the number of deaths dropping significantly in recent years, coronary heart disease is still the number one killer across the country. Over 2,200 people died in Northern Ireland from coronary heart disease in 2010 compared to just over 2,300 people in 2009 – an overall reduction of 100 province-wide. The latest figure reveals the positive downward trend is continuing – in 2008, there were 2,410 deaths, 2,493 in 2007 and 2,554 in 2006, while in 1979 there were nearly 5,000 deaths.
Throughout National Heart Month in February, the PHA is calling for people to follow a number of steps in a bid to reduce their chances of developing the disease.
Smoking is a major risk factor and, the more cigarettes you smoke, the higher the risk, according to Dr Christine McMaster, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, 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, 24% of the population in Northern Ireland still smoke, putting them at risk of developing the disease.
“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 McMaster.
Simple lifestyle changes will also reduce the risk of heart disease, including 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, five days a week.
Dr McMaster 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 on 028 9055 3663
Notes to the editor
- National Heart Month runs in February.
- 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.