Healthy Town: Tullamore takes charge of its heart health

The Pfizer Healthy Town initiative is on a mission to improve cardiovascular health in the Offaly town, with free public talks, CPR training, advice and support on offer


Heart disease is the biggest killer in Ireland with 10,000 people dying every year from complications relating to the condition. But a healthy heart is a happy heart and 80 per cent of heart disease is preventable. With a healthy diet, exercise, a total cessation of smoking, a knowledge of family history and a minimal amount of alcohol consumption, most people could reduce their risks considerably. 

But while most people worry about the possibility of getting cancer, many do not realise they are more likely to die of cardiovascular disease if they don’t take steps to improve their diet and lifestyle. 

However, Dr Angie Brown, medical director of the Irish Heart Foundation, says the risks can be reversed by making a few simple changes and believes the Pfizer Healthy Town initiative will be very beneficial to both the inhabitants of Tullamore and the rest of the country who she hopes will be following suit.

“It’s very important for everyone in Ireland to know their risk of heart disease and stroke so they can take positive steps to prevent it,” she says. “And the good news is that heart disease and stroke doesn’t happen overnight and by keeping an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol – getting them checked regularly from the age of 30, as well as not smoking, eating well and being active – you can keep risk factors at bay.

“So we very much welcome the opportunity to highlight the importance of preventing heart attack and stroke, when we meet the people of Tullamore over the coming months.”

Local pharmacist Rose Finlay will be offering blood pressure checks to the public and Dr Brown says being aware of what the main risk factors are can be hugely beneficial when it comes to tackling heart health. 

“While people are becoming more aware of the risks, they are not as aware as we would like them to be,” she says. “So the main risks to your heart include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight, drinking or smoking too much – so having blood pressure and cholesterol checked is very important.

“High blood pressure along with other heart conditions can increase the risk of stroke and heart attack and this is why it is important to look after your heart health and be aware of the lifestyle factors that can impact negatively on your heart.”

Studies have shown that almost two-thirds of middle-aged and older adults have two of the big three risk factors for heart disease and stroke

Dr Brown believes the Pfizer Healthy Town programme gives people a chance to learn more about their health and wellbeing and how to improve it – and representatives of Irish Heart will be there to offer advice and support during the campaign.

“Studies have shown that almost two-thirds of middle-aged and older adults have two of the big three risk factors for heart disease and stroke,” she says. “These risks include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity and almost all 94 per cent have at least one risk factor. But the good news is 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable through healthy lifestyles.

“Over the coming weeks, we will be giving advice through free public talks, walking leader training and CPR training. And we’ll also be linking in with local schools to encourage them to get active. 
“If you’re worried about stroke or heart health, don’t delay. Call the Irish Heart Nurse Helpline free of charge on 1800 25 25 50.”

Rose Finlay of Finlay Pharmacy agrees and says the townspeople are very keen to improve their overall health and the combination of exercise, an improved diet, the reduction of alcohol consumption and the cessation of smoking, will all help to improve heart health across the board.

“Everyone is very enthusiastic about getting healthier and fitter, no matter what age they are,” she says. “There is an awful lot going on in the town which will encourage people to change their habits and this will be very beneficial for heart health.

“And of course, we will be offering free blood pressure checks to anyone who wants to keep an eye on their blood pressure, which will also hopefully prompt them to visit their doctor if necessary and keep up the good work with diet, exercise and lifestyle.”

Heart disease

  • 100,000 new cases of heart disease and stroke are diagnosed in Ireland annually
  • About 10,000 people die from heart disease and stroke in Ireland every year
  • 80% of cardiovascular disease is preventable
  • Risk factors include: High blood pressure, Smoking, Physical inactivity, High cholesterol, Being overweight, Poor diet, Diabetes, Too much alcohol, Age, Family history.
  • Prevention: 30 minutes moderate activity five times a week, Healthy diet and weight, quit smoking, have regular BP and cholesterol tests, de-stress, know family history. 

Symptoms of heart attack can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Upper body pain in the jaw, back, neck or arms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Light-headedness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness

The Irish Heart Foundation’s FAST campaign makes stroke symptoms easy to remember:

  • F - is for Facial Weakness – can the person smile?
  • A - is for Arm Weakness – can the person raise both arms?
  • S - is for Speech problems – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • T - is for Time – Time to call 999 if you spot any of these signs

Six ways to improve heart health:

  1. Be active: 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week – like a brisk walk 
  2. Eat well: Try to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Cut down foods high in fat, salt and sugar.
  3. Watch the weight: Know your healthy weight range
  4. Quit smoking
  5. Have regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks
  6. Know your family history 
  7. De-stress

For more information visit www.irishheart.ie 

For more on Healthy Town, see www.facebook.com/HealthyTownIreland