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JUST A MINUTE: MICHAEL O'SHEA.

Byline: Fiona Wynne

MICHAEL O'SHEA is chief executive of the Irish Heart Foundation. Fiona Wynne spoke to him about how to protect against heart disease and his challenging and sometimes frustrating job.

How did you get involved with the organi- sation?

I have no medical background so I am entirely in the management side of the business. I have no big interesting story about getting involved, I just saw the job advertised and applied for it and got it.

How long have you been working there?

Just over 12 years now. Sometimes it surprises me how long I've been here - the time really has just flown by without me noticing.

Give us a brief example of your daily routine?

It can vary from attending staff meetings here in the office to board meetings to speaking to the Minister for Health on certain initiatives.

What's the best thing about your job?

It's the challenge it presents. Ireland currently has twice the EU average number of premature deaths from heart disease so we are constantly trying to reduce this to at least the EU average.

Is it frustrating to see people do things that damage their health?

There are certain frustrations, especially since people are so well educated on what poses a danger these days. It's up to everybody - the Heart Foundation, the government, all organisations and the people - to work together to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Could you identify the single biggest contri- butor to heart disease?

There are a lot of factors, but I would have to say smoking would be the biggest evil, definitely more so than drinking where heart problems are concerned.

How many people die from heart problems in Ireland each year?

Roughly 12,000 out of a total of 29,000 deaths - that's around 40 per cent. Heart disease is the biggest killer in Ireland.

Has this number increased or decreased?

It has been gradually decreasing. The number peaked in 1974 when 53 per cent of all deaths were due to heart problems. This rate is now down to around 40 per cent, but that is still much higher than countries such as Finland and Australia.

Is there any answer to the problem?

If people take health initiatives seriously and implement them fully we can tackle heart disease. The government's Healthier Heart programme in 1999 has 211 recommendations. If everyone works together to make them all possible we could have a great impact.

What is the best piece of advise you can give people?

Just be sensible and try to live a balanced lifestyle. Do everything in moderation, exercise, don't smoke, have annual check-ups. It is usually doing things in excess that causes the most damage.

What's the worst thing about your job?

The challenge is a positive thing but it can also be very frustrating because of the lack of change and the time it takes change to happen.

What is the ultimate aim of the organisation?

Obviously to educate and protect people and to try to bring the number of deaths in Ireland down to the EU average or even lower if at all possible.

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CHALLENGE: Michael O'Shea
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 27, 2002
Words:529
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