Rugby stars call for Irish men to take better care of their hearts

Rugby Stars Call For Irish Men To Take Better Care Of Their Hearts Rugby Stars Call For Irish Men To Take Better Care Of Their Hearts
Irish Heart
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By James Ward, PA

One in four men do not consider heart health a priority, despite cardiovascular disease being a leading cause of premature death in males.

Data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows that almost 30 per cent of all premature deaths in 2018, in those under 65, were from cardiovascular conditions, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Almost three quarters of those deaths, 73 per cent, were in men.

Despite this, an Ipsos MRBI poll for the Irish Heart Foundation has revealed that 28 per cent of men do not consider the health of their heart a priority.

Former Irish rugby players Paul Wallace and Tommy Bowe (Michael Chester/PA)

The charity has launched a new campaign, Reboot Your Life, to encourage men to review their lifestyles and make vital changes to protect their health.

It is being backed by a number of former Irish rugby stars, including Tommy Bowe, Malcolm O’Kelly, Paul Wallace and Peter Stringer.


In the past five years, two of the players’ friends and former teammates, Anthony “Axel” Foley and Gary Halpin, died suddenly due to heart issues at the ages of just 42 and 55.

Nobody expected a heart condition to take him away so young

Reflecting on Foley’s death, Ireland great Stringer said: “Nobody expected a heart condition to take him away so young.

“One in four men in Ireland will lose their lives to heart disease or stroke, but we need to give ourselves the best possible chance.

“Get active, eat healthier and get yourself a check up.”

CSO data shows that 999 men died of a heart attack in 2020, compared to 642 women.

In the same year, in the 45 to 54 age group, 217 men died of heart disease and stroke compared to only 75 women.

Preventable deaths

“One in four men in Ireland die from heart disease and stroke and men are nearly three times more likely than women to die young from these issues, but the good news is that 80 per cent of those deaths are preventable through healthy lifestyles” said Janis Morrissey, the Irish Heart Foundation’s Director of Health Promotion.

“The proportion of men who are living with overweight (43 per cent) and obesity (25 per cent) is higher than for women (31 per cent and 22 per cent respectively) and men’s diets are generally less healthy.


“The older you get, the higher your risk and so we are encouraging men, particularly men in their 40s and 50s, to take stock of and reboot their lifestyles by identifying what simple changes they can make now to benefit their heart health into the future.”

The campaign is being supported by the HSE as part of their delivery on Healthy Ireland, the national framework to support health and wellbeing in Ireland.

The HSE’s Fergal Fox said: “Women tend to be more proactive in engaging with their health.

In fact, men are typically 33 per cent less likely to engage with their GP before they experience heart issues.

“That is why this campaign is so important, it encourages men to take action now before that crisis point happens.”

Rugby Players Ireland is encouraging its members, particularly former players, to prioritise their heart health as part of this campaign.

“Over the course of their careers, our members have access to the best facilities and medical supports to ensure they maintain peak physical performance” said Simon Keogh, chief executive of Rugby Players Ireland.


“It’s only natural that some of these habits and activities take a back seat when the time comes to retire from the game.

“We are therefore encouraging all our past players to stay fit, healthy and to get medically screened at least every two years.”

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