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Me and my health: Fearghal McKinney on his lifestyle

 

Health conscious: Fearghal McKinney
Health conscious: Fearghal McKinney
Fearghal McKinney playing badminton

The 57-year-old, who lives in east Belfast with his wife Maire and three daughters, has reached his six-month milestone as head of the British Heart Foundation (BHF) in Northern Ireland. The former UTV presenter and SDLP politician is a busy father to Kate (22), Anna (20), and Martha (14).

Q: Do you take regular exercise and if so, what?

A: Since leaving politics over three years ago, I've had more time to exercise and now out of nowhere I've become a regular badminton player - having never played it before in my life. A mate of mine rang me up to give it a go and I haven't looked back. I usually play two or three times a week at a club in Holywood. I enjoy the competitive nature and social aspect of it - there's always a bit of craic on and off the court.

I've also taken to cycling and I do around 14 miles, often along the Comber Greenway. I wouldn't call myself Geraint Thomas or anything but I find that it's a great way to de-stress and enjoy the outdoors.

Everyone knows exercise is important but taking up the post at BHF has definitely made me appreciate just how key it is in keeping the mind and body healthy.

Q: What is the worst illness you've had?

A: Once, years ago when I was working at UTV, I got a very bad chest infection that meant for the first time ever I had to take time off work. I was off for a fortnight and it scared me a bit by how much it floored me. A strong course of antibiotics sorted it out but even to this day if I get a bad cough or cold it reminds me of that time.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: I think I eat well. My wife Maire is an excellent cook and largely in charge of what I eat, so there's usually a great range of vegetables and fresh food in our meals - I'm very lucky.

I do love a good steak and chips and I'll hold my hands up to the occasional takeaway but there's no doubt that, hearing people's stories of heart health every day, I'm much more keenly aware about what I eat in order to have a healthy heart.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: Food-wise, I try to avoid snacks such as crisps and chocolates. After a long week, I do have the bad habit of snoring on the sofa come Friday night - but I can't help that!

Q: Do you drink and/or smoke? If so how much?

A: I stopped smoking 22 years, two weeks and three days ago - not that I'm counting! I'm really glad I stopped as I felt better pretty quickly after. I wasn't a huge smoker, more a binge smoker on social occasions, but I know how difficult it can be to give it up. I don't think I could play badminton or cycle as much as I do if I still smoked.

I still like the occasional drink. I meet mates for a pint or two on a Friday for after-work drinks and a bit of craic.

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Fearghal McKinney playing badminton

Q: Do you take any supplements?

A: No.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: My exercise is my time out. I love getting home in the evening and enjoying family time. Occasionally I'll stumble across a box set on Netflix and binge-watch it. I've just finished watching series five of Peaky Blinders basically back-to-back.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: I used to have an annoying habit of lifting the phone during the night if I woke up, so I had trouble sleeping after it. I don't lift the phone anymore, not even to look at the time, and I set it to bedtime mode to get a proper night's sleep.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: I don't worry because I still feel like I'm 20. Exercising makes me feel younger and I'm surrounded by young people at work and at home.

A lot of my BHF colleagues in the Belfast office are young and my daughters keep me up-to-date with what's going on in their world.

I always think you are as young as you feel and I feel young. I'll admit to having a niggling twinge in my knee but I choose to ignore that!

Q: What is your go-to product that keeps you feeling healthy?

A: I've taken to eating all kinds of nuts that give me a bit of energy. I pack a little bowl of nuts every morning so I can have them to hand during the day. It stops me snacking on anything too sugary.

BHFNI will be hosting the 'Act on Air Pollution: Save Lives' event at The MAC Belfast tomorrow. This Q&A event is free to attend and will include Fearghal McKinney and a panel of experts. Dr Mark Miller, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Cardiovascular Science at the University of Edinburgh, will be the keynote speaker. The panel will discuss the impact of air pollution on people's health and what can be done about it . To register go to www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/act-on-air-pollution-save-lives-tickets-79709831251 LINDA STEWART

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