Patient-led COVID-19 Response Campaign

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to threaten the lives of people with new onset cardiac conditions and people living with existing cardiac health challenges, the Global Heart Hub, an international alliance of heart patient organisations, has launched a ‘patient-led’ COVID Response Campaign. The aim of this international campaign is to save lives, reduce disability, increase awareness and drive action. Croí is a member of the Global Heart Hub and supports this campaign.

The pandemic has disrupted the world and, in particular, our personal health care and healthcare systems. Many people are slow to seek medical help when experiencing obvious cardiac symptoms. Many remain fearful of going to their doctor or to hospital. Many are cancelling important medical appointments. These delays in seeking help and commencing treatments can be life-threatening. It’s time to put heart health before the fear of COVID-19. You are 10 times more likely to die from a cardiac event than from COVID-19.

The campaign encompasses three important messages:

  • In recent months, many people with heart and stroke emergencies have delayed seeking medical help because of their fear of COVID-19. The #JustGo message is simple – when experiencing symptoms of heart attack or stroke, don’t delay, seek medical help. When your heart says so, #JustGo.
  • The #StepUp message encourages patients to be informed, know their symptoms and be assertive about their heart health. When your heart needs you, #StepUp.
  • The #JustTreat message is important for healthcare providers who have had to re-prioritise hospital resources, resulting in significantly impacted heart services. Because time is crucial, #JustTreat.

National Clinical Societies and international organisations such as the World Heart Federation, The European Society of Cardiology, International Atherosclerosis Society (IAS), FH Europe and others have united to share these important messages. Ignoring cardiac symptoms or delaying treatment carries the risk of severe complications and potentially life-threatening consequences.

According to recent research by the World Heart Federation, since the start of the pandemic there has been an increase of up to 139% in heart disease-related deaths. Attendance at hospital appointments has dropped by 76% globally. The number of heart attack patients seeking urgent hospital care has dropped, with a 58% increase in people having cardiac arrests at home. Across the world there has been a large decrease in cardiac admissions to hospital (across all cardiac conditions) and there has been a significant decrease in hospital interventions both surgical and less invasive.

National Clinical Societies and international organisations such as the World Heart Federation stand firmly behind this patient-driven initiative aiming to save lives. As leaders of the global heart community, they encourage healthcare workers to treat cardiovascular disease patients as effectively and quickly as possible, which includes making sure they get to them in time. During the COVID-19 pandemic it may be easy to overlook other diseases that affect our lives, and which can cause more damage in the long run. The international patient community encourages the media and the medical profession to spread this important message and help counter fear in times of uncertainty.

The repercussions of COVID-19 on the burden of cardiovascular disease requires unprecedented global health policy action. COVID-19 has impacted heart patients due to postponed appointments, delayed or cancelled procedures, with heart valve surgery and structural heart procedures being the worst hit by cancellations. Delayed or avoided cardiac care increases the risk of long term irreversible damage and even death.

Global Heart Hub’s COVID Response Campaign reaffirms medical advice to always act quickly when it comes to symptoms of heart disease. Early recognition of symptoms is key to ensure the best possible treatment and health outcome. The campaign also aims to reassure patients that the risk of coronavirus infection in hospital has been minimised for patients being admitted.

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Tailored Educational Intervention Programme Can Have a Positive Impact on Hypertension Control

Hypertension affects in excess of 50% of people over 50 years of age in Ireland. Lifestyle change is a critical element in blood pressure control and hypertension control is only effective when the individual understands their condition and are empowered to take action.

New research completed by NUI Galway, Croí­ – the West of Ireland Cardiac and Stroke Foundation, and the National Institute for Prevention and Cardiovascular Health, has explored the impact of a structured hypertension educational intervention programme on patient knowledge, lifestyle behaviours and blood pressure control. The study, published in the international medical journal SN Comprehensive Clinical Medicine, found a significant improvement in hypertension knowledge and awareness and a measurable increase in blood pressure control.


First author of the paper Dr Haroon Zafar, Programme Lead for the Masters in Interventional Cardiovascular Medicine at NUI Galway, and Science Foundation Ireland and Irish Research Council funded Principal Investigator, said: “Hypertension (raised blood pressure) is an increasingly prevalent condition in Ireland, affecting in excess of 50 per cent of those over 50 years of age. While many people undergo adequate clinical treatment, their standard of blood pressure control still remains sub-optimal mainly due to poor medication adherence fuelled by poor awareness level.


“Providing a tailored educational intervention programme can have a positive impact on hypertension control, knowledge and self-care management within community-based settings. With upward trends for hypertension and cardiovascular disease across Ireland, the need for a new model to effectively treat and control hypertension among the Irish community becomes indispensable.”


Over 100 participants from disadvantaged/underserved communities in County Mayo participated in the study. Participants from the interventional group were invited to attend the structured interactive educational programme on lifestyle management of hypertension. The aim of this session was to create knowledge and awareness on hypertension and was delivered by a multidisciplinary group including a Specialist Nurse, Dietician, Physiotherapist and Cardiologist. Educational topics included understanding and taking control of blood pressure, the effects of exercise and diet on blood pressure, smoking cessation, stress management, and current medication updates and adherence.


Eligible participants (adults of 40 years and older) with high blood pressure were randomly assigned to either a control group or an intervention group. The control group were given standard care, which included blood pressure and Body Mass Index measurements, lifestyle guidance, and referral to General Practitioner in accordance with European Society of Cardiology guidelines, and the interventional group received an educational session to improve knowledge and understanding of hypertension.


A follow-up assessment was conducted for all participants four-six months after the educational interventional programme. Participants from the intervention group showed higher blood pressure reduction by the end of the study on each of the four measured blood pressure indicators (SBP-R, SBP-L, DBP-R and DBP-L), compared to participants from the control group. The educational session provided to intervention participants also raised their awareness level regarding hypertension and the importance of exercise in controlling hypertension along with reduction in alcohol consumption and avoiding smoking altogether.


Professor Faisal Sharif, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at University Hospital Galway and senior author of the paper, said: “The study highlights the importance of patient empowerment and engagement in management of chronic diseases such as hypertension. Through patient education we can achieve superior clinical results by modifying the patient’s behaviour. Further, larger studies are required to confirm this effect. Also, it will be interesting to assess the long-term effects of patient intervention on clinical outcomes.”


Neil Johnson, Chief Executive of Croí – the West of Ireland Cardiac and Stroke Foundation, and the National Institute for Prevention and Cardiovascular Health, commented: “Raised blood pressure remains the biggest single risk factor for heart attack and stroke, which constitute the leading cause of death and disability in Ireland and across the world. Effective treatments for high blood pressure are readily available and relatively cheap. However, a critical element in blood pressure control is lifestyle change which is only effective when the individual understands their condition and are empowered to take action. This research study confirms the significance of patient empowerment through education and it’s a good example of the significant impact of the work of Croí in the local community.”


The research was funded by an unrestricted educational grant from Global Medtronic Philanthropic Foundation and an Irish Research Council New Foundations Grant.


A copy of the full study, published in the journal SN Comprehensive Clinical Medicine is available at:

Energy Ball Snacks to Fuel You on the Couch to Wild Atlantic Way Challenge

Croí’s Dietitian, Aisling, has designed the perfect recipe for Energy Ball Bites! These tasty and healthy treats are the perfect little snack to give you a quick but light energy boost. Try them out and, if you’re doing Croí’s Couch to Wild Atlantic Way challenge, pack them up and bring them with you for a mid-walk snack!

The natural sugars from the dates provide energy and sweetness, while the healthy fats and protein in the nuts satisfy that peckish feeling. However, because they are small, they are a perfect pre-workout snack as they won’t fill you up too much but will give you an energy boost for your session.

There are so many varieties and flavour combinations from chocolate, orange zest, coconut or peanut butter, but the basic ingredients of dates and nuts always remains the same so, once you’ve made these yourself once or twice, don’t be afraid to get experimenting!

Croí Energy Balls – Basic Recipe


  • 100g medjool dates (or regular dried dates pre-soaked in water)
  • 50g nuts (I used hazelnuts but you could also use almonds or Brazil nuts)
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder, plus extra for coating
  • 1 tsp chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp honey


  1. Blend the nuts finely.
  2. Add in the dates and blend again until completely mixed. You may have to scrape down the sides of the blender a few times to make sure everything gets blended.
  3. Add in the chia seeds, cocoa powder and honey and blend again.
  4. Take out tablespoons of the mixture and roll into balls.
  5. Coat in some cocoa powder