THIS is 30-year-old Ray Poynter. He wouldn't norm-ally expect to make the front page of his local newspaper.

But Ray is a face behind a shocking statistic - one that places Basingstoke at the top of the heart attack league in Hampshire.

On Friday, The Gazette launched its Healthy Hearts Campaign to turn the tables on a killer robbing too many local families of their loved ones.

It's a simple but sobering fact that Basingstoke is a coronary heart disease blackspot - and, sadly, many people are dying from heart attacks.

Around 300 people a year are admitted with heart attacks to Basingstoke hospital, while 600 more are admitted with angina and other heart problems.

Health authority experts can come up with no simple explanation but they say urgent action is needed - and, with your support, The Gazette aims to help.

Ray, from Lambs Row, Lychpit, is not your typical heart attack victim.

A relatively fit dad, the AWE Aldermaston worker thought he was out of the heart attack zone. But, sadly, last week he found out he was wrong.

He said: "At my age you just don't expect this kind of thing to happen."

Ray is now waiting to find out exactly what damage has been done to his heart. He hopes to make a full recovery.

His experience proves a heart attack can happen at any age - that's why our campaign is one we hope readers of all ages will take to their hearts.

Over the next few weeks, we will talk to the doctors, nurses and health managers whose job it is to make sure the Basingstoke area is not left even further behind as the Government demands new framework for improving the treatment of coronary heart disease.

We will ask them what they are doing and what Basingstoke people can do for themselves to have healthier hearts.

We will ask the ambulance service why it continues to report very poor emergency response times when they will be crucial to improving the survival chances of those Basingstoke residents stricken with a heart attack.

We will also talk to the people whose job it is to promote healthier lifestyles.

Dr Tom Dent, a public health consultant at North and Mid Hants Health Authority, has written reports and called for "urgent and effective action" to cut down the local death rate from coronary heart disease.

He told The Gazette: "We will back your campaign because the health authority is very concerned about heart disease and willing to work with anyone trying to overcome it."

Basingstoke hospital's consultant cardiologist, Dr Andrew Bishop, said: "I cannot think of anything more worthwhile for you to campaign about. It is very encouraging."

Dr Dent's reports show that Basingstoke has a high rate of deaths from heart disease which cannot be explained by poverty and deprivation.

But it also shows fewer people have had heart bypass and angioplasty operations than should have been the case.

Dr Dent said the health authority is now planning a range of steps to put all this right and give Basingstoke healthier hearts - something we all want to happen.