Heart disease on increase in the area

Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots
Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots

Heart disease is on the rise in the Lisburn area, though on the upside there’s been a marked fall in the associated death rate.

The news emerged following the recent publication of a constituency profile showing the average annual death rate for circulatory illnesses in Lagan Valley stood at 336 per 100,000 people.

Flagging up the statistics, the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Association’s Public Health Director, Fidelma Carter, said that while it was good to see statistics on circulatory deaths highlighted, it was disappointing that they were higher than deaths from cancer or respiratory illnesses.

“Within the Lisburn area,” she said, “there is good news and bad news regarding heart disease.

“The good news is that the death rate from heart disease decreased by a very encouraging 32% from 2011 to 2014.

“However, the bad news is that the number of people on the Coronary Heart Disease Register, ie people living with a heart condition, increased, though only slightly, to 3,811.”

Lagan Valley MLA and former Stormont Health Minister Edwin Poots said the health service was clearly succeeding in keeping more people alive but too many were failing to heed lifestyle warnings. “What I would take from that,” he said, “ is that clinical expertise has continued to increase and, with the availability of 24/7 cath’ labs and better medication, the health service is better at keeping people with heart conditions alive, but, on the negative side, more people who could potentially avoid having heart conditions are failing to heed the public health messages, to stop smoking - a big contributor to heart disease - and the the other main factor is around obesity.

“People need to ensure their intake of food and alcohol are in reasonable quantities if they wish to avoid many of the conditions that will seriously impact their quality of life .”

Ms Carter, meanwhile, said NICHSA’s vision was one of a Northern Ireland free of chest, heart and stroke illnesses.

“Despite the death rate decreasing,” she said, “we still want to ensure everyone is aware of the symptoms of a heart attack, as time is of the essence to give the person the best chance of survival possible. There are 12 heart attacks in Northern Ireland every day, with three people sadly dying.”

A newly launched NICHSA campaign aims to make people aware of the symptoms of a heart attack by way of the acronym STOP (S for Something’s not right – symptoms can start slowly; T for Tightness or pain in the chest, pain in the arm, neck or jaw; O for Other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea or sweating and P for Phone 999 immediately – the ambulance crew will do an ECG).

“Of course, prevention is better than a cure,” said Ms Carter, “so it is also very important to understand what we can do to reduce our chances of having a heart attack in the first case.

“There are some factors that you can’t control which mean you have a higher risk of heart disease; our age and whether you have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure or high cholesterol are some of the most important ones to think about.

“However, there are also some things over which you have more control - whether or not you smoke, your weight, the amount of physical activity you do, your diet, how much alcohol you drink, stress and how much sleep you get.”

More information about heart disease and how to prevent is available on NICHSA’s website: www.nichs.org.uk/heart.