Saturday, February 05, 2005

 

Too Much Fat in Your (Irish) Diet Will Hurt Your Heart

Once upon a time, in a small town in Ireland, there lived a really nice guy called Harry. As well as being devoted to his wife and kids, he was kind and helpful to everyone he met. In return, his family were mad about him and so were his friends.

Apart from his family, Harry had few interests in life, but like most men he loved his meat. In fact, his idea of heaven was sitting down to a huge Sunday lunch of roast lamb, complete with crispy fat, roast potatoes and gravy.

His weekday meals were just as meaty. He’d have chops smothered in fried onions, a plateful of steak and chips, a big fry-up of sausages and black pudding, or roast chicken covered in rich gravy made in the roasting tray.

Because he adored his food and because he worked so hard, his wife loved to spoil him. So as well as serving him hunks of meat, she fed him plenty of apple tarts, sponge puddings and cakes – all topped with custard or cream.

Fortunately, as a busy builder, Harry led a very active life, so his waistline didn’t expand quite as fast as his wife’s. But over the years, he gradually got heavier. At 30, he was 12 stone, at 40 he was 13 stone and by the time he reached 50 he was 14½ stone. Even so, his outward appearance was excellent. He looked stronger and fitter than most men half his age.

Alas, appearances can be deceptive, and so it was with Harry. On the evening before his 51st birthday, he suffered a massive heart attack and died on the way to hospital.

At first, people couldn’t believe it. How could this happen to someone as healthy as Harry? However, by the time of the funeral, there was general agreement that it was probably a family heart problem. Didn’t his grandfather die of a heart attack?

This explanation made everyone feel better, especially the men. After all, if Harry’s death was the result of a family defect, it meant that they had less to worry about. They didn’t have to start examining their own lifestyle or diet.

So Harry was buried amid great sorrow and then everyone went home and continued eating the same old fatty things, as though nothing had happened. The men continued to tuck into piles of red meat and fried onions, while the women wolfed down their regular coleslaw, apple tarts and chocolate.

An improbable story? I don’t think so. I’m sure that most of you know several people who have died prematurely from heart attacks. But what effect did this have on your own eating habits? What steps are you and your husband taking to protect yourselves against heart disease?

For example, do you monitor the amount of fat you eat – especially dairy and animal fat? Have you switched to low-fat alternatives? Do you eat oily fish twice a week? Do you eat plenty of fresh fruit every day? Do you eat three helpings of vegetables every day? I bet you don’t.

Well OK, it’s free country and you can do what you like, but what about your children? Are you helping them to grow up with healthy hearts?

Remember: every 37 minutes in Ireland, on average, there’s a Harry (or Harriet) who dies of a heart attack somewhere in Ireland. What’s more, the vast majority of these deaths are preventable, simply by eating sensibly.

So why not make a few changes to your diet? Why not start eating a bit more sensibly? If you do, not only will you live longer: you’ll also get slim! Food for thought?

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