New farmers’ health study launched

By June Shannon Heart News   |   21st May 2018

80 per cent of farmers are in the high-risk group for heart disease

21 May 2018

A new 4-year study has recently commenced to study ways to help farmers improve their heart health. The study is based on original research commissioned by the Irish Heart Foundation which found that 80 per cent of farmers were in the high-risk group for heart disease.

The study will be conducted by Teagasc PhD Walsh Fellow Ms Diana Van Doorn at the Centre for Men’s Health at IT Carlow and it is also supported by Glanbia Ireland, the Irish Heart Foundation, the HSE and the UCD School of Physiotherapy and Performance Science.

Ms Van Doorn was one of the lead authors of the 2015 Irish Heart Foundation Farmers Have Hearts study which offered 1,000 free heart health checks to farmers and mart workers around the country from October 2013 to May 2014. The results from these health checks revealed that almost half of farmers screened had high blood pressure, 46.1 per cent had raised cholesterol levels and the vast majority were overweight or obese.

This means that Irish farmers, (males in particular) are a particularly high-risk group for cardiovascular (CVD) disease, the leading cause of death in Ireland.  While a general decline in mortality rates has occurred in the Irish population in recent decades, the rate of decrease has been lower among farmers.

"The study adds significant value to the regular health checks that we undertake each year through our Farmers Have Hearts programme, supported by the HSE,"

Marese Damery, Health Check Manager, Irish Heart Foundation

Lifestyle behaviours, including occupational factors are strongly associated with cardiovascular disease and are therefore preventable. If untreated, CVD can have serious impacts on farmer’s health which undermines the profitability, productivity, competitiveness and sustainability of farming.

The new 4-year study will provide opportunities for farmers attending marts in 60 locations throughout Ireland during 2018-2019 to undertake a health screen test and, if they choose, to participate in the study which aims to help them achieve healthier lifestyle goals. The health screen tests will be carried out under the Irish Heart Foundation’s Farmers Have Hearts programme.

Speaking at the launch of the new study, Marese Damery, Health Check Manager, Irish Heart Foundation said: “The Irish Heart Foundation welcome the opportunity to collaborate on this project as it builds on the research already commissioned by us which revealed that 80 per cent of farmers are in the high-risk group for heart disease and stroke and recommended that more research be conducted on effective interventions with this group. The study adds significant value to the regular health checks that we undertake each year through our Farmers Have Hearts programme, supported by the HSE. We are particularly happy to have the opportunity to work in partnership on such a valuable study. This research is important in identifying ways that we can support farmers make positive changes to their lifestyles.”

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