Three Northern Ireland areas in UK's 10 worst coronary hotspots
Three areas in Northern Ireland top the table for highest rates of heart disease in the UK, shock new research has revealed.
Deprivation and poor diet are being blamed for the statistics.
Ballymoney comes second on the top 10 list of worst areas, with Ards and Moyle coming in at seventh and eighth.
People in Ballymoney are three times more likely to die from heart disease than those in the UK's healthiest areas.
The grim statistics reveal people in the town are more likely to die from heart problems than any other place in the UK apart from Tameside in Greater Manchester.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) in Northern Ireland is rolling out a scheme – Fight For Every Heartbeat – to help combat heart disease across the region.
BHF medical director Professor Peter Weissberg said the figures showed the poor health of people in Northern Ireland.
"Ballymoney represents what's going on in Northern Ireland as a whole. Ards and Moyle are both high as well if they're compared to the top five. There's not a lot of difference between them all. Northern Ireland does pretty badly on coronary heart disease.
"Generally speaking, it's usually down to a lifetime of bad habits and being overweight that puts people at risk of heart disease.
"I would presume that Ballymoney is a fairly deprived area in Northern Ireland. That tends to be a predominant factor in these statistics. They are all socially deprived areas on this list, where there are high rates of unemployment and poor diets."
The figures show that from 2009 until 2011 there were 129 deaths in Ballymoney, just three short of the highest figure.
During the same time Ards suffered 117 deaths while Moyle registered 114 deaths.
Heart disease is the second biggest killer in Northern Ireland, with 2,480 deaths last year.
Professor MPS Varma, consultant cardiologist at Erne Hospital in Enniskillen, said the high figures reflect the unhealthy approach to our lifestyles.
He said: "I have seen the recent figures for the death rates in Northern Ireland and they don't surprise me.
"Across the province there is a high incidence of heart disease – part of the reason is genetic and people's lifestyle choices, like smoking and unhealthy eating.
"It's a combination of genetic component and high cholesterol that are to blame for these figures.
"Another reason is people do not go to see their doctors.
"They need to get their cholesterol levels and hearts checked on a regular basis.
"Those in the 40-plus age groups are at high risk and these are the ages when heart disease occurs the most.
"They need to get their blood pressure and sugar levels checked as they are in the at-risk category."
The professor highlighted the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and how dangerous processed foods can affect our bodies.
"Stick with fresh fruit, vegetables and lean meat.
"Cigarettes need to be cut out for a healthier lifestyle and stick to a moderate intake of food.
"I drive an old car and get it checked once a year – people should do the same with their health."
DUP MLA Gordon Dunne of the Assembly's health committee said: "These figures show some cause for concern across Northern Ireland."
The importance of having defibrillators is highlighted by statistics which show that 1,300 cardiac arrests happen outside a medical environment every year here. For every minute in cardiac arrest before defibrillation, chances of survival fall by 10%. Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba (24) collapsed in March 2012 in a game. He survived but it emerged he "died" for 78 minutes.