HEALTH WATCH: Checklist Issued to Combat Stress-Related Heart Disease

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Byline: SANDRA CHAPMAN

NORTHERN Ireland has one of the highest rates of heart disease in the western world with 6,000 attacks each year resulting in 4,000 deaths.

It's our biggest killer disease; cancer is the next with 3,800 deaths a year.

We also have 4,500 strokes each year, from which a third of victims will die, a third will recover and the rest will have degrees of disability.

Stress is a big factor in health and the British Heart Foundation has established a new checklist to help people test their stress levels.

In fact, the list is part of the charity's first advice booklet dedicated to explaining the link between stress and heart disease.

According to the BHF, half a million people in the UK believe work-related stress is making them ill, and it is becoming clearer how it affects heart health.

The main risk factors for heart disease are high blood cholesterol, low physical activity, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and family history.

Having one or more of these factors, combined with high stress levels, can lead to coronary heart disease (CHD).

Professor Andrew Steptoe, BHF Professor of Psychology at University College London says: "Research is beginning to show that, for some people at least, stress may contribute to coronary heart disease.

"Because we cannot measure stress easily, this area of research is complex, and it could be years before we can say for certain whether stress directly affects the heart.

"A degree of challenge is necessary for us to feel motivated and enthusiastic, but too much stress can cause ill health.

"Getting the balance right helps us to lead a healthy, active lifestyle and cope with stress in a positive way. …