Older farmers urged to be heart aware

By June Shannon Heart News   |   18th Jul 2018

Farm Safety Week 2018 highlights importance of farmers getting regular health checks

The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has urged older farmers to look after their health as part of the UK and Ireland Farm Safety Week 2018 (16 to 22 July).

Now in its 6th year, Farm Safety Week aims to reduce the number of farm accidents and highlight the importance of farmers getting regular health checks.

IFA President Joe Healy said, “Unfortunately, we can’t stay young forever and we have to recognise that ageing does affect not just our mobility and strength but also our hearing and eyesight. This places older farmers at an increased risk of accident on the farm. We are encouraging older farmers to recognise their limitations, examine their work practices and to make sure to ask for help when they need it. We’re also highlighting the importance of getting regular health, hearing and eyesight checks so you can identify any issues and take steps to address them or to change how you work on the farm in light of them.”

The Farm Structure Survey 2016, which was published by the Central Statistics Office earlier this year, found that more than half (55 per cent) of all farm holders in Ireland were 55 or older and 30 per cent were 65 or older.

"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,"

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The ageing process also affects cardiovascular health and as we grow older, our blood pressure increases putting us at increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

It is estimated that more than half, or 64 per cent of people over 50 in Ireland have high blood pressure and 41 per cent of people living with high blood pressure are not taking adequate medication.

The 2015 Irish Heart Foundation Farmers Have Hearts study found 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.

The study also found that 80 per cent of farmers were in the high-risk group for heart disease.

In May this year a new 4-year study commenced to examine ways to help farmers improve their heart health. Based on the original Farmers Have Hearts project, 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 the Irish Heart Foundation, the HSE, Glanbia Ireland and the UCD School of Physiotherapy and Performance Science.

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.

"80 per cent of farmers are in the high-risk group for heart disease and stroke,"

Marese Damery, Health Check Manager, The Irish Heart Foundation

Speaking at the launch of the new study in May this year, 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.”

Speaking at the launch of Farm Safety Week 2018 Mr Gerry Boyle, Director Teagasc said, “Teagasc strongly supports the UK and Ireland Farm Safety Week. This year’s theme, Your Health. Your Safety. Your Choice, reflects the importance of farm health and safety and the fact that practical engagement of farmers’ is essential for progress. Teagasc is supporting a new four-year PhD Walsh Fellowship on farmer cardiovascular health improvement in association with IT Carlow Centre for Men’s Health, the Irish Heart Foundation and the UCD College of Health and Agricultural Sciences.”

As farmers are a particularly high-risk group for cardiovascular disease, it is important that they get regular health checks including blood pressure checks.

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blood pressure cholesterol farm safety week 2018 farmers Farmers have hearts heart heart atttack high blood pressure older farmers stroke

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