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Ramsay Jones: The fight against heart disease is one we should all be part of

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It is a sobering thought that today, just here in Scotland, 41 people will die because of a heart condition. And tomorrow, another 41. And the next day, and every subsequent day, the same.

We all know people, friends and family, whose lives have been cut short or quality of life harmed by heart disease.

The day when I came home from school, barely a teenager, to be told my dad had collapsed and died from a heart attack at a bus stop on the way to work is indelibly etched in my mind. I was over four decades ago. But sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday. Sadly, my story is all too common.

We know that, in Scotland, the death rate from coronary heart disease is nearly 50% higher than for the south east of England where the rate is the lowest in the UK. Indeed, right now, there are 700,000 people living with heart disease in Scotland. We must fight back. We are fighting back. Great advances have been made. But we can do more.

I have a varied and eclectic mix of people with whom I work on a range of projects and issues. But none give me greater pleasure than my role with an amazing team of people at Heart Research U.K. Why? Because they know that we can fight back.

Already, Scotland’s universities and hospitals are leading the way with ground breaking research that will lead to new discoveries and life-changing treatments. This vital work will keep those we love around for longer. Survival rates are improving. Quality of life is better. Medical advances are impressive.

But we need to do more. We must try even harder. Nearly three quarters of a million people in Scotland are relying on us.

So Heart Research UK has launched the Heart of Scotland Appeal to do just that. The funds, raised in Scotland, will be invested in Scotland on pioneering medical research to take on heart disease and get Scottish people living healthier, happier and longer lives.

It formally launches next month, and The Heart of Scotland Appeal is a chance for us all to play our part to help more people live these longer and healthier lives, and raise awareness that research really can make a difference in tackling such life threatening conditions.

The list of celebrities, business and sports people already on board to back the appeal is incredible, and the launch is still a few weeks away.

It is a cause which unites people across politics and it was heartening to see both First Minster Nicola Sturgeon and Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell get enthusiastically behind it. Both of Scotland’s governments united in common cause.

Sports stars from rugby, cricket, football and more are ready to do their bit and a growing list of iconic Scottish companies want to play their part, whether it is the fishermen of Shetland, skippers in the north-east of or the finance workers of Edinburgh.

More big stars will be announced soon and your social media feeds will hopefully be full of them sporting and supporting our merchandise. Author Val McDermid, singer Amy MacDonald, and the fashion designer Christopher Kane are amongst the first of the big names to back the appeal. Christopher has designed a striking t-shirt and a set of iconic and beautiful lapel badges. Each badge is in a vibrant colour and bears a single word: Love, Life, Care, and Brave, so we can all pick our favourite to tell our story about who, or where, our heart of Scotland is.

But Heart of Scotland’s real success will not be about politicians. Or big business. Or sports stars or other celebrities. Their support is fantastic. They are a massive asset. But the true sign of success will be when, as David Mundell said, Heart of Scotland strikes a chord in the hearts of Scots. When millions of us decide to play our part.

Astonishingly, there is no annual national day of focus on heart research. So the aim is raise money and awareness all year round, but focus on the longest day, June 21st every year, as Heart of Scotland Day and embed it into our calendar as a national day of fun, fundraising and hope.

Who knows, maybe it could become as well known as Red Nose or Poppy Day? It is a big ambition, but it is a big and important cause.

So I look forward to the day when workplaces compete to come up with the best fund raising wheezes, when the striking badges and t-shirts are seen on every High Street, when celebrity spots teams compete for a Heart of Scotland trophy, and when Heart of Scotland Day is a firm fixture the in calendar.

All so that the money raised in Scotland, and spent in Scotland, can change more lives in Scotland for the better.