World Heart Day: Farmers urged to ‘get away from the farm’ for a daily walk

On this World Heart Day (Tuesday, September 29), farmers are being reminded that while they may think they are getting their steps in while working, they should really ‘get away from the farm’ for regular walks to help keep their mental health in shape too.

According to a report by Teagasc and the National Centre for Men’s Health at the Institute of Technology Carlow, ‘Farmers Have Hearts: Cardiovascular Health Programme’, 74% of male farmers have four or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Dr. John McNamara, Teagasc health and safety specialist, told AgriLand that he encourages farmers to stay in regular touch with a GP to keep an eye on their health.

Farmers are tough – it’s a tough business to get farmers to go for check-ups, but the statistics are there as to why they should.

“Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest killers of the whole population, including farmers. Quite a high proportion of the farming population is either overweight or obese so that is a big risk factor for heart disease – these are the big areas we need to work on.”

Dr. McNamara said that there’s a “misconception” that farmers get a lot of steps out around the farm, but that it’s “not necessarily adequate for cardiovascular health”.

“On the farm there aren’t enough phases when farmers get intense exercise to put the heart under a bit of pressure,” he continued.

“Farmers also need to watch their mental health along with the physical. A small step in helping both is to get away from the farm for a walk, and go somewhere with a different view.”

Medical Conditions Associated With Risk Of Covid-19

This year, the need to monitor one’s health has never been more important. Due to the health risks that farmers have in Ireland, they are “highly vulnerable to adverse outcomes of Covid-19 infection”, according to another report by Teagasc and the National Centre for Men’s Health at the Institute of Technology Carlow, in which Dr. McNamara is a co-author.

The report, ‘Essential and Vulnerable: Implications of Covid-19 for Farmers in Ireland’, finds that farmers, due to being essential workers, place themselves and their families at “greater risk of exposure to the virus”.

Lung disease; asthma; diabetes; obesity; and smoking history are all medical conditions that a proportion of Irish farmers have, and are associated with risk of severe symptoms of Covid-19.

The report notes that it is of particular concern that “a high proportion of farmers with elevated cholesterol and/or blood pressure reported not being on prescribed medication to manage the conditions”. This adds to the susceptibility of farmers to the outcomes of Covid-19.