A healthy farmer is a wealthy farmer

The Irish Heart Foundation will be carrying out heart health checks at Athenry Mart over the next two days as part of an initiative to reach out to farmers at marts across the country.

To date, 1,000 farmers have had checks. Each farmer receives comprehensive and personal advice on his health and lifestyle as well as information on local health services. Farmers who were identified with risk factors for heart disease are referred to their GP.

Farmers are affected disproportionately by chronic diseases, including heart disease and stroke, despite a common perception that they live healthy, active lives. Health checks conducted by the HSE showed farmers in general smoke and drink more than the national average and are more likely to have type 2 diabetes and to be overweight/obese.

The full heart health check provides a cholesterol and glucose check, blood pressure check, body mass index, waist measurement, and carbon monoxide check (for farmers who smoke ). Nurses also provide information around smoking cessation, alcohol, stress, and one-to-one lifestyle advice.

The response by the farmers to the health checks has been very positive, with full attendance for the checks each day at the mart. Many of the farmers had not attended their GP in years. Following the health checks, nearly 75 per cent of the farmers were advised to go to their GP.

Maura Canning, from Mullagh, said blood pressure should be monitored. "High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. If not treated or kept under control it is one of the major factors for heart disease and stroke. One of the best ways to prevent heart disease and stroke is to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level.Checks will take place at Loughrea Mart tomorrow, Friday August 28, and on Saturday.

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