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Me and my health: Fidelma Carter discusses her lifestyle


By Helen Carson

The 48-year-old is public health director at Northern Ireland Chest, Heart & Stroke. She lives in Belfast with her partner Neil Dickson, who works for Sash Windows, and is a stand-up comic, and their children RoseErin (9) and Joseph (7).

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

A: Because I have a full-time job, two children and a dog it is really hard to fit exercise into my life. However I do walk a lot, mostly with the dog, Jessie, a Labrador/collie mix or my kids. I try to do 10,000 steps a day and walk to and from work which is 5k a day. Just recently I have introduced stand-up meetings at work and occasionally we will do exercises too - which can look rather odd jumping about the office. With the darker nights I will start going to the gym again.

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

A: Fortunately I haven't had any serious illnesses but a month ago I thought I was suffering from a heart attack and called 999, although I was reluctant to do so as I didn't want to waste anyone's time. Because I know the symptoms I obviously didn't want to take a risk. The paramedics ran an ECG on me and it wasn't a heart attack. I have early stages of osteoporosis which was picked up 15 years ago and that's why it's important for me to do weight-bearing exercise.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: I have been a vegetarian for 15 years, and for 12 years of that I have been a vegan so I never miss breakfast which this morning was large bowl of veggie curry - usually it is porridge with berries. During the day I snack on hummus and rice crackers or fruit. Lunch is hummus, salad, avocado and pitta bread. For dinner we eat a lot of curries and Thai food. A balanced diet is important for me because I have osteoporosis.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: Because I don't like sugar I'm not tempted to eat sweets. I prefer savoury food, although I do like dark chocolate and research says that it's better for your heart. I probably drink too much coffee and will have two cups of espresso in the morning made in the cafetiere - I don't drink instant coffee at all. And I love cashew nuts, in fact I eat too many of them too.

Q: Do you drink and/or smoke - if so, how much?

A: I don't smoke because you are three times more likely to suffer a heart attack if you do. I like the odd glass of wine at the weekend - Sauvignon Blanc or Malbec - but myself and my husband have a zero drinking policy during the week. We rarely get out during the week anyway as we wouldn't be able to get babysitters.

Q: Do you take any health supplements?

A: Multi-vitamins, calcium and a vegan-friendly Omega 3 supplement. These are important for balancing out my diet because I am a vegan and have osteoporosis.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: It is difficult with a young family but when I do I will go out walking on my own or with the dog. I like the silence and I also practice mindfulness to help manage stress. We also go out every week as a family for a hike and take a flask of tea and food with us - even when it's raining. I love being outside.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: Not that well, but I don't need a lot of sleep. I would be very well suited to living in the Mediterranean as I could have a siesta in the middle of the day to tide me over. I go to bed around 10.30pm at night. I don't drink coffee after 5pm and practice some mindfulness so I sleep as well as I can.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: Yes I do. I'm now 48 and have a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old. I am very aware that I could die before my children are grown up so I want to live a long and healthy life. I want to be able to travel when I'm older and live life to the full.

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

A: Walking and being active. I lived in London for 20 years and it is lovely to be outdoors and be so near beautiful places to walk. When it comes to getting outside there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. When my children go out they have their wellies on and are wrapped up against the rain and cold.

  • Northern Ireland Chest, Heart & Stroke, tel: 028 9032 0184 or visit

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