Why My Message for Health Is from the Heart; Merseyside's New Champion for Good Health Is Investigating What We Can Learn from Finland in a Bid to Cut Heart Disease. JANE GALLAGHER Reports
Byline: JANE GALLAGHER
IT may not be the message we all want to hear at this time of year but saturated fat, the key ingredient in all that Christmas fayre, is the major culprit in making heart disease the biggest killer on Merseyside.
Yet just small changes in the amounts of fat we eat can have a huge impact on the death rate of this killer disease.
The man charged with delivering this chilling message is Robin Ireland, 47, the newly appointed director of `Heart of Mersey', a major new coronary heart disease prevention programme funded by Merseyside Health Action Zone.
And so seriously does Mr Ireland take his work that over Christmas he will be packing his bags to head towards the Arctic Circle to find out how one Finnish community reduced the rates of death from coronary heart disease by more than 70%.
``Finland in January is not the best time to visit but the research is so valuable,'' says Robin who lives in Mossley Hill with his wife and two daughters.
``We do know that the North Karelia Project which was launched in 1972 in Finland initially concentrated on reducing the amount of cholesterol in the diet with startling results.
``This small but significant change can be followed by others such as taking up more exercise and giving up smoking but we are taking it in small stages.''
Robin and his colleagues will study international initiatives to find out what really works.
And it is crucial that the message does get across.
The number of deaths from coronary heart disease in Merseyside has fallen by 2,000 since the year 2000 but 3,000 people still die annually from what is largely a preventable condition.
Yet a recent study found that the vast majority of us still don't eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day which would instantly improve our overall health.
``There are people who have a genetic predisposition to coronary heart disease but even they can minimise the risks by making simple lifestyle changes.
``I have spoken with members of the British Cardiac Patient Association who are very enthusiastic about our work, they are keen for us to develop strategies that will prevent other people suffering in the way they have.''
Robin accepts that life is now moving at a much faster pace than ever before and fast food is a major part of that lifestyle.
``I accept that everyone is busier and people have less support. It isn't easy to get out to exercise when we have jobs during the day and children to care for at the weekend without any family support.
``I have a young family and no members of the family live close by so I do what I can. …