Heart disease in Ireland on the rise

Ireland, a land of “happy wars and sad love songs,” is also a nation that  is adopting some of the bad eating habits found in the U.S.  and is trying to break those habits.

That assessment comes from Ian Graham, MD, of Dublin’s Trinity College, who chairs the Irish Heart Foundation Cardiovascular Prevention Council and is co-chair of the program committee at EuroPRevent 2012, which opened with “Ireland Day,” a series of presentations focusing on efforts to tame cardiovascular disease among the Irish.

To illustrate his point, he introduced Robbie Walsh, a 39-year-old Dublin postman who had an MI at age 37.    Walsh, a ruddy-faced man who seemed pleased to share his story with a room full of journalists, said he regularly walked 5 to 6 hours a day delivering mail so he had always considered himself healthy.   But Walsh also smoked about 25 cigarettes a day, “more on the weekends or if I went out for drink,” regularly ate red meat, and limited vegetables to “about once or twice a week.” And both his father and his brother had heart disease.

Following coronary artery bypass graft surgery for single vessel disease, Walsh entered a standard 12-week long cardio-rehab program that taught him the value of fruits, vegetables, and a life without cigarettes.   Perhaps most importantly, Walsh said, is that he knows that preventing a second heart attack is a lifelong job for him.

Graham, who pointed to Walsh as a success story, said expanding prevention efforts in Ireland, as well as the whole of the European Union and North America, will depend largely upon the buy-in from the primary care community, since all of primary prevention and much of secondary prevention is a “GP job.”