‘FITTER AND HEALTHIER’ Michael McNamara is encouraging other farmers to join Croí for a free Heart Valve Disease webinar on this Thursday, September 16 from 7pm to 8pm. See www.croi.ie or call 091 544310 for more information.
WHEN Clare Island sheep farmer Michael McNamara would come in after a busy day on the farm, he would love nothing more than a cup of tea and something sweet to go to kill the hunger. It was quick and easy, and Michael saw nothing wrong with it – until last January, when he happened to tune into a heart-health webinar hosted by Croí for farmers.
“I was very skeptical [of the webinar], but it has changed my way of thinking. I look at things completely differently than how I did,” Michael told The Mayo News.
At the time, the 51 year old was on medication for high blood pressure and did not feel there was any more he could do to control it. He felt that as a farmer, he was living an active life in the country. However, since joining the Croí health-and-wellbeing programme, he has discovered there is a lot more he can do to keep himself healthy.
Nothing to lose
“I wasn’t doing anything myself other than taking the medication,” he said. “I joined the Croí programme reluctantly because I felt I had nothing to lose, but having joined it I learned about the things I can control as well as the medication side of it.
“For treatment for blood pressure, what they are suggesting is a combination of diet, exercise and medication, when before I would have only thought of the medication side and expected that to work. I did not realise I had a lot of control on my blood pressure.”
As part of the programme, Croí sent out an information pack aimed at farmers explaining how you can control your blood pressure and cholesterol, and dietary changes that can be made. Michael admits he was not someone who would regularly eat fruit and vegetables, but now the biscuits are out and the grapes are in.
“I surprised myself. It was a completely positive experience. I would have been out in the fields and come in and grab the quickest thing to eat. I would not be a big man for veg or fruit, and it was usually sweet stuff like biscuits and all that.
“I started planning my meals a bit better, and [became] conscious of what I was eating and adding more fish and fruit and vegetables. While it took longer, it was definitely healthier because I was inclined to be eating bits and pieces between meals and not eat a proper meal.
“I actually enjoy the mixture in the diet in eating fruit and now; I appreciate the flavours and taste of the food a lot more.”
Michael explained that before Covid he would not have been able to attend many of the Croí information evenings, which were held on the mainland. For him, the regular follow-up Zoom meetings have been vital for staying on track. He admitted that he’s not perfect, but the information he receives allows him to get back on track if there was a slip up or a return to some bad habits.
Among the shocking statistics that he remembers from the webinar is that 50 percent of farmers suffer from high blood pressure or cholesterol, while 86 percent are obese. He said this made him sit up and think about what changes he could do on the farm to exercise more.
“All the farm work when I was young was physical activity, but now machines are doing that work. That is not going to change, but what I can change is if I need to go a short journey around the farm, I won’t take the tractor or the jeep. I walk for ten or 15 minutes, and I get exercise while doing work. I’m a lot more aware of that,” he said.
Michael feels that in the eight months since he joined the programme he has lost weight and feels fitter and healthier. He would recommend other farmers to sign up too.
“I thought there isn’t much I can do by myself, but I learned through Croí that there are a lot of things I can do. I’m feeling a lot better and fitter, and enjoying life more. I couldn’t speak highly enough of Croí and all the help and support they have given me.”