Farm Safety Week: Look after your Heart for Long Term Health

By Maeve O'Keeffe Heart News   |   20th Jul 2023

This week marks Farm Safety Week, and the theme for today (20th of July) is long-term health.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s Farmers Have Hearts programme aims to help farmers address their risk factors for cardiovascular disease by offering free heart health checks at marts around Ireland.

The life of a farmer can be busy and stressful. According to a major study published in 2020, 74% of male farmers in Ireland were found to have four or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease, making them three times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to people with fewer risk factors.

The study involved the National Centre for Men’s Health (NCMH) at IT Carlow, The Irish Heart Foundation, Teagasc, Glanbia Ireland, the HSE and UCD College of Health and Agricultural Sciences, and saw 868 male farmers undergo health checks in marts and Glanbia Ireland Agribusiness branches across the south, east and midlands.

Free time is hard to come by for many farmers, so making time to go to the doctor for a health check is often pushed down the to-do list. Because of how important health checks are, and how many farmers who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease, the Irish Heart Foundation’s Mobile Health Unit visits marts around the country, so there’s no excuse not to nip in for a quick and convenient free  heart health check.

" Farmers often tell me they’d call the vet faster than going to their own GP. "

Caitriona Pollard, Health Check Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation

Caitriona Pollard, Health Check Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation, urges farmers not to forget the importance of looking after their heart health; “Farmers often tell me they’d call the vet faster than going to their own GP.  High blood pressure which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke and has no symptoms so the only way of knowing if your blood pressure is high is to get checked. We would encourage all farmers to get checked.”

Making lifestyle changes for a healthier heart does not need to be dramatic. Starting by making small sustainable changes to your daily routine, and building on these over time is the best approach. If you’re not sure where to start with making changes, check out our 8 heart healthy habits and focus on the ways you can take better care of your heart.

According to Caitriona Pollard, Health Check Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation, “Small changes in farmer’s day to day lifestyle habits such as increasing physical activity or reducing the amount of salt in your diet can also improve overall  heart health.”

" Small changes in farmer’s day to day lifestyle habits such as increasing physical activity or reducing the amount of salt in your diet can also improve overall heart health."

Caitriona Pollard, Health Check Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation

The best way of knowing how you can improve your lifestyle is by getting a health check. Farmers are so busy that it might feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, but the importance of a health check cannot be overstated. High blood pressure and cholesterol are among the leading causes of heart attack and stroke. There are no symptoms of these conditions, so the only way of knowing if you have high blood pressure or cholesterol is by getting checked. Make an appointment with your local GP or pharmacy, check the Irish Heart Foundations website to see  if the Mobile Health Unit is at your local mart or community centre for you to drop in.

What is involved in a health check?

The Irish Heart Foundation’s Mobile Health Unit (MHU) travels the length and breadth of the country offering free heart health checks in communities across Ireland.

During a heart health check at the MHU, the Irish Heart Foundation nurses measure:

Our nurses also provide lifestyle advice and information on how to improve your heart health.

For details on when the mobile health unit will be visiting your local community, check here, or email healthchecks@irishheart.ie.

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