365 will die in 2006

MERRIL Smith could have lost her life to a heart attack 13 years ago.

Since Merril underwent a life-saving quadruple bypass operation she and husband Brian have worked hard to stay healthy and avoid heart disease.

But they are battling the odds.

Next year 365 Central Queenslanders are expected to die from coronary heart disease.

That's one life taken every day.

Central Queensland's women are most at risk across the state while our male population is also in danger.

Health experts say it's time for CQ residents to do something to buck the trend, warning the biggest contributing factors are smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, CQ's female population is the most at risk for women in Queensland with 146 deaths per 100,000 people every year.

Men are in even more trouble with 219 deaths per 100,000 people each year.

Capricorn Division of General Practice spokesperson Dr Michael Donohue said the problem was a complex one.

"It's partly lifestyle, it's partly access to health funding.''

He said CQ residents were disadvantaged by not having a specialist cardiology unit in Rockhampton.

"There are tertiary cardiac services in Townsville and in South-East Queensland but this region misses out,'' he said.

Rockhampton Health District's senior medical administrator, Professor Patrick Bolton, agreed a cardiology unit would benefit the region but said our population base was too small.

"It would probably be hard to argue that right now we can truly justify our need for one,'' he said.

"But we shouldn't give up, it's on our wish-list for the future.''

However, he said the viability of the unit was being investigated by a new coalition comprising the region's major health services under the banner of the CQ Health Plan.

"We are looking at the health needs of the region and this will really put Rockhampton on the front foot.''

But he said Central Queenslanders needed to take responsibility for their own health.

He said smoking, obesity, poor diet and a lack of physical activity were major contributing factors to CQ's health woes.

"If people got regular amounts of exercise and ate a healthy diet we would all live longer. It's really important for people to give up smoking, exercise for half an hour, five days a week, and eat healthy food.

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