'Greater heart risk' among deprived
The most deprived in Northern Ireland are twice as likely to die from heart disease as the most affluent, it was revealed.
Poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise were all behind the increased death toll, according to a new plan from the Belfast Health Trust.
Dr Leslie Boydell, associate medical director for public health at the trust, said inequality imposed its own strains on top of poor lifestyles.
"If you are less well off than someone else and live in a very unequal society it does impact on you psychologically and it does have a physical effect including on your health in terms of heart disease or cancer," she said.
Information published by the trust showed Belfast has the highest level of deprivation in Northern Ireland.
A total of 504 people died from heart disease in Belfast and Castlereagh in 2008.
The death rate from cardiovascular diseases fell in Northern Ireland by 36% between 1997 and 2009. For the same period the rate fell 31% in the most deprived areas, leading to an increase in the inequality gap.
The trust said those living in the most deprived fifth of areas are at least twice as likely to die from heart disease as those in the most affluent electoral wards. The trust launched a new plan to help improve the health prospects of the people of Belfast, particularly young people, today and called for earlier intervention.
Dr Boydell said the cuts to public services could have an impact but is calling on agencies to work together to make lives better.
"We all recognise that it will be a lot more difficult and people will find it more difficult in the financial climate," she said. "There will be higher unemployment so in many ways this is more important now and is not necessarily about doing new things, it may be about doing what we do better."