As many as one in three adults over 40 years of age in Mayo are obese, according to a report launched this week by Croí, the West of Ireland Cardiac Foundation, in collaboration with HSE West’s Mayo Primary Community and Continuing Care Department.
The report outlines the findings of a year-long programme known as Heart Smart Mayo which is a nurse-led community based cardiac risk factor screening programme. A total of 1,541 people availed of free-of-charge cardiac screening and risk assessments, which found that almost half the group (46 per cent ) were overweight with a further 33 per cent were classified as obese. This is a very significant finding says the report’s author, Ailish Houlihan, who points out that “a recent national survey [SLÁN] found that 25 per cent of the Irish population were obese, thus showing that the Mayo population are ahead of the national average”.
The Heart Smart Mayo report also reveals startling findings across other risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Almost half (49 per cent ) of the participants had raised cholesterol (above the recommended levels ) and 40 per cent had raised blood pressure. In total, almost two thirds (64 per cent ) of all participants were referred to their general practitioner with as many as seven per cent requiring urgent medical attention for either raised blood pressure or raised blood sugar levels. Taken together, the findings of this report show that as many as one in five Mayo people over the age of 40 are classified as ‘high risk’ for a fatal cardiovascular event such as heart attack or stroke.
The Heart Smart Mayo programme visited communities last year throughout Co Mayo and offered free screening to individuals in their places of work or leisure, meeting people in venues as varied as libraries, community centres, marts, etc. Participants were given advice by nurse specialists and referred to their general practitioner as required. Six months later they were invited back to their original venue for a follow-up visit and as many as eight out of 10 returned. This brief intervention showed that almost two thirds of participants took action and attended their GP as advised. Significant reductions in cholesterol and blood pressure were achieved over the six-month period, with 16 per cent reducing their cholesterol to the recommended target levels and 29 per cent reducing their blood pressure to target. Almost two thirds reported improvements to their diet, and a third reported improvement in the duration and intensity of the exercise they were taking.