Awareness of heart failure remains low

Pictured l-r: Dr Fiona Ryan, director of clinical trials at The Heartbeat Trust; Frank O’Neill, patient at The Heartbeat Trust; Tom Dunne, national broadcaster and heart disease patient; Olive Cummins, general manager of the Heartbeat Trust and Dr Ambrose McLoughlin, chair of the Heartbeat Trust. Photograph: Bryan Brophy

Almost 200 people are diagnosed with heart failure every week in Ireland – that is 10,000 people per year – yet awareness of the condition remains low, the national heart failure charity, the Heartbeat Trust, has warned.

With heart failure, the heart does not work as efficiently as it should. As a result, the blood cannot deliver enough oxygen and nourishment to the body to allow it to work normally. Heart failure often develops because of another medical condition, such as a heart attack or high blood pressure.

Previous research carried out by the Heartbeat Trust found that over 7% of all hospital bed stays could be attributed to heart failure and the total annual cost of the condition is around €660 million.

The charity has partnered with the Galway heart charity, Croí, to raise awareness of heart failure. Both organisations are members of the Global Heart Hub, which recently launched the Red Flag campaign in Ireland. This aims to educate people on the five key symptoms of heart failure, which are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen ankles or legs
  • Sudden weight gain (2kg over two days)
  • Poor appetite
  • Tiredness.

“Treatment aimed at managing heart failure is improving, however awareness remains a problem. This is why opportunities to raise public awareness about the main symptoms are so vital.

“The Red Flag campaign is designed to inform people that if they have some, or all of these symptoms, they should go to their GP. Ultimately, we know that the earlier we detect the onset of heart failure, the better the patient outcome,” explained the Heartbeat Trust’s medical director, Prof Ken McDonald.

The Red Flag campaign is supported by broadcaster and musician, Tom Dunne, who underwent serious heart surgery in November 2018.

“Having undergone such serious heart surgery so recently, and being told I had a 70% chance of dying in the next two years if I didn’t have the surgery immediately, I know only too well how important heart failure awareness is.

“I originally had a heart murmur diagnosed 10 years prior to my surgery and I also found out that I had a genetic heart condition. I had no existing heart failure symptoms from what I can recall, but knowing that there are five key red flag symptoms that people should recognise is really crucial for heart failure prevention,” Mr Dunne said.

Frank O’Neill attends the STOP HF Unit at St. Michael’s Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin. This is a screening service aimed at the prevention and early detection of heart failure.

“I was referred to the clinic in 2007 after seeing my GP who was treating me for diabetes. In 2011, as part of an annual check-up, I found out that I had experienced a silent myocardial infarction (heart attack).

“Over the years, a lot of trust has been built up between myself and the team. I feel like the screening service is my guardian angel and am very grateful that they are there. I think that heart failure prevention screening should be available everywhere,” Mr O’Neill said.

The Red Flag campaign was launched to coincide with European Heart Failure Awareness Month (May).

Article written by Deborah Condon and published 29/5/2019 in Irish Health Pro http://bit.ly/2I8xJDn