Number of under-75s dying from heart and circulatory disease up
The number of people dying in Northern Ireland from heart and circulatory diseases before they reach their 75th birthday is on the rise for the first time in half a century.
A report published today details an upward trend in deaths from 2014 to 2017.
Some 1,102 people died from heart and circulatory conditions here before the age of 75 in 2017 - an increase from 1,053 deaths three years earlier.
The worrying reversal follows decades of progress that has seen annual deaths from heart and circulatory disease fall by half since the 1960s, partly thanks to improvements in medical treatments, and changing lifestyles including declining smoking rates.
The overall number of deaths from heart and circulatory disease rose to 3,780 in 2017, meaning that around 10 local families lose a loved one to a heart or circulatory disease each day - three of these people will die before their 75th birthday.
The figures have been released by the British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI).
The charity has launched a new strategy, which warns against complacency, and sets ambitions for the UK to increase heart attack survival to 90% by 2030 and halve premature deaths and sufferers of disability from stroke.
The family of one man who died suddenly from cardiac arrest in October 2017 have called for greater awareness of heart problems.
Tommy English from Dunmurry had turned 50 in August 2017, and the death of the fit and healthy father-of-two came as a huge shock to his family.
His wife Jacqui said she is sharing her family's story because heart and circulatory disease can affect anyone.
"Tommy was very fit and healthy.
"He walked for miles every day in his job with the Rivers Agency," she said.
"We'd had our usual lovely Sunday with the family and he was busy organising a charity football match for an over-40s team, as he was not only vice-chairman of Lisburn Rangers Football Club but he was a great people person and he always wanted to help others.
"We went to bed that night as usual and the next morning, sadly, he didn't wake up. He was the last person you would have expected it to happen to.
"We will never get over the shock of this or the loss of a wonderful husband and father."
Fearghal McKinney, head of BHF NI, said it is vital to guard against complacency.
He said despite "phenomenal progress" in reducing the number of people who die of a heart attack or stroke each day, today's figures show a worrying slowdown in the pace of progress. "Heart and circulatory diseases are still a leading cause of death here, and the biggest globally," he added.
"We need to work in partnership with our political leaders, health and social care and medical research community to accelerate research into improving treatments further.
"With the continued commitment of our researchers and the public's generous support, we hope that the next 10 years will see us make unparalleled progress towards our vision of a world free from the fear of heart and circulatory diseases." The BHF aims to raise the funds to support £1 billion of research over the next 10 years to save and improve the lives of people suffering from heart and circulatory diseases.
The strategy details key measures to make sure those with existing conditions and risk factors are detected and treated early, with more effective medicines and interventions.
It also says that everyone, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, or where they live, should have access to the treatment, care and support that they need.