‘Dig deep and support Croí!’ – Apartment Testimonial

Read this lovely testimonial which was left to us recently by Bernie McCaffrey, who stayed in the Courtyard Apartments at Croí House while her husband, Eddie, was receiving coronary care at Galway University Hospital.

“My Husband, Eddie, and I were enjoying a wonderful holiday in Canada. Eddie, who was always a healthy and fit man, just turned 60, had a heart attack and was hospitalised in Calgary, Canada for 9 days. He was then taken by air ambulance back to Ireland and admitted to Galway University Hospital. I travelled with him and arrived in Galway with a very ill husband and nowhere to stay. The nurse in Coronary Care put me in contact with Christine in Croí. From the moment I met Christine, I was so well taken care of. I was accommodated in a lovely, cosy and comfortable apartment, with secure entry gates. This was such a comfort to me while I was completely alone and so worried about Eddie.

Initially I was supposed to stay for 5 days but because of complications with my husband’s surgery, this turned into 13 nights. I was never made feel I was outstaying my welcome. The kindness and support I was shown by Christine and all the staff was second to none. I was able to walk to the hospital in 10/15 minutes with no worries about car parking or the expense of it. There is a well-equipped laundry room, very essential for patients’ clothing.

My husband had a triple bypass and is recovering well, thank God.

All of this wonderful work and facilities are totally dependent on voluntary donations. I have been involved in many fundraisers, but can honestly say, I have never seen money being put to such good use. Come on, dig deep and support Croí!”

– Bernie McCaffrey

The Courtyard Apartments at Croí House are funded entirely by donations and fundraising events organised by Croí and community fundraisers. We could not provide these facilities without the generosity of the people of Ireland, particularly those in the West and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their incredible and continuing support.

For more information about the Courtyard Apartments at Croí House –

Visit: www.croi.ie/courtyardapartments 

Tel: +353 91 544310

Email: info@croi.ie

The Story Of My Heart

By Pearl O’Kennedy

Pearl is 80 years old and lives with her husband on Rahoon Road in Galway. They have six children and 12 grandchildren.

“10 years ago, following a visit to my GP, I was diagnosed with a murmur in my heart. As it wasn’t causing any problems, I was kept under supervision. For the next few years, my heart was checked every six months, then every three months – during which time I had started to feel a little breathless.

One day, last October, I was going to have an angiogram. When the procedure was over, the doctor sat me down and told me that I needed to have a valve replaced in my heart – the aortic valve. I was sent for a scan the following week to determine if I would have to undergo open-heart surgery. When I met with my doctor to get more tests done, he explained that he had been working on a new type of valve. After showing me diagrams of the valves and explaining how they work – as well as the potential complications – he asked if I would be prepared to let him use one on me. He told me that this would be the first time this particular valve would be used in Europe. After some hesitation, I agreed to let him use the new valve.

A month later, I had the valve replaced. It was a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVI) and I was conscious throughout it all. The procedure lasted for a little over two hours, during which time a nurse stayed beside my head. When it was over, I was transferred to a warm bed and given some medication to help me sleep. When I woke up, I was back in the Cardiac Ward. I felt good and was discharged three days later.

I got home before Christmas and had a lovely time. However, I did notice my hearing had started to deteriorate. Following a visit to the doctor, I was told that I had lost 50% of my hearing. After having hearing aids ordered for me, I learned that hearing loss is something that can happen a person if they’ve had work done on their heart.

Earlier this year, I received a letter from Galway University Hospital asking me to attend an eight-week cardiac rehabilitation programme in Merlin Hospital. This entailed going to the Cardiac Unit two days a week where we did light workouts such as cycling, rowing, walking, and weight lifting. We were also given talks on diet and other general health topics. There were six men and two women in attendance and I was surprised to see some very young men there. When the eight weeks were over, I started to go back to my own gym. Now, I go twice a week. I spend half an hour on the machines and forty-five minutes doing water-aerobics. Life is good now and although I’m still coming to terms with having to use hearing aids, they are becoming part of my life.

Thank God, my heart is good.”


Pearl O'Kennedy

Croí is taking part in European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week (September 16 – 22, 2019), which aims to raise awareness and improve diagnosis, treatment and management of heart valve disease in Europe. #HeartValveWeek19 See www.heartvalvecouncil.org/heart-valve-week for more information.

Plates, portions and weight control

We eat with our eyes and the size of our plate influences how hungry or satisfied we feel after eating a meal.  Over the past few decades portion sizes served in restaurants and cafes have increased. In the USA, the average restaurant meal today is over 4 times larger than in the 1950’s, with Ireland following a similar trend. This promotes over eating and can lead to weight gain and obesity. Studies show that people are generally eating an extra 200-300 calories per day more than they actually need, so it’s not surprising our waist lines are expanding!

While larger plates and bowls may look stylish, research consistently shows eating from them leads us to serve and eat bigger portions. Why? It all comes down to a sneaky optical illusion, the ‘Delboeuf illusion’.
This describes how larger plates can make a serving of food appear smaller, so we add more to the plate! The picture below demonstrates this theory, the same-sized central circle (the test circle in black) appears smaller when surrounded by a much larger concentric circle, than when surrounded by only a slightly larger concentric circle. This helps us to understand that our perception of food portion size is linked with the size of the plate it is served on. Switching to a smaller dinner plate puts you in greater control, and less likely to over-eat.

The Dietitians at Croí have redesigned the Croí Portion Plate. The plate is split to guide you to eat balanced meals and healthy portion sizes. A good rule of thumb is to aim for half a plate of vegetables/salad, ¼ plate of lean protein and  ¼ plate of wholegrain carbohydrates. Portion size guides are included on the back of the plate.

5 tips to perfect your portions

  1. Check the size of your dinner plates, a standard plate size should be no more than 9 ½ inches.
  2. Leave a cup measure in your cereal, rice, or pasta container so you have a clear idea of how much you’re scooping out each time.
  3. Focus on food quality, not quantity, and take the time to savour and enjoy the smell, taste and texture of every mouthful.
  4. Lean meat portions half the size of your palm are perfect. Cut yours down to size and save the leftovers for lunch the next day!
  5. Always include some vegetables or salad at every meal (aim for half your plate), these are low calorie nutrient rich foods that provide vitamins and minerals for good health.

Supporting Families at Croí – Testimonial

Earlier this year, we welcomed Bernadette White to stay in our Courtyard Apartments at Croí House as her husband John received care in Galway University Hospital. Following her stay, we were very grateful to receive this lovely testimonial from Bernadette, who spoke very kindly about the staff at Croí and the Courtyard Apartments.

“My husband, John, had to undergo Triple Bypass Surgery. We live in Donegal which is 4 hours from Galway Hospital. The Cardiac Nurse in Letterkenny Hospital informed us of The Courtyard Apartments at Croí House. What a facility, brilliant! It takes away the stress of trying to find accommodation in Galway. The staff were brilliant, especially Christine (Head of Fundraising at Croí). She made us feel so welcome and was so helpful. It’s brilliant that family members can come and stay, it’s within walking distance of the hospital and has a direct phone line. The apartment was beautiful – a home away from home! It was so nice to be able to relax after a stressful time. We will never forget their kindness” 

– Bernadette White

The Courtyard Apartments are a much-needed facility which allow family members to be as close as possible to patients who are in hospital for cardiac or stroke care in Galway University Hospitals. The apartments are open 365 days a year and have a 98% occupancy rate, with many families coming from the Mid/North West, like the White family.

The apartments consist of three self-contained ground floor accommodation units, located just a ten-minute walk from University Hospital Galway. They are funded entirely by donations and events organised by Croí and have supported families from all over Ireland and even internationally.


TEL: +353 91 544310

Croí’s Couch to 5K

By Croí’s Andrew McPhillips

Get Training For the Croí Night Run!

Congratulations! – you have taken the first step to a healthier lifestyle by signing up for the 5th Annual Croí Night Run/Walk/Jog. Not only will you be helping us lead the fight against heart disease and stroke, but you will also be making a positive change to your lifestyle! It has been proven that regular exercise decreases body fat, increases bone density, lowers rates of coronary heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure while also contributing to our mental health by increasing our mood and energy levels.

So join our 9-week Couch to 5K!

Where to start? 

To get you successfully to the finish line, regardless if you are a total beginner or not, we have developed two training programmes to suit your needs. The programme you choose depends on how you want to complete the 5 kilometers (jog/run or walk). The duration of both programmes are 9 weeks in total and will prepare you for the finishing line by gradually building up your ability week by week.


Let’s begin by setting your goal. The key is to set a realistic goal!

Would you like to:

  1. Jog/run the 5km; or
  2. Walk the 5km?
Training Programme 1 – run/jog:

Each week you will need to allocate 3 sessions per week, ideally having a day of rest in between allowing your muscles and joints to recover.

Click the table below to enlarge/print. 

Week 10 - Event Day, Oct 11th!


  • Always include a 15-minute warm-up of a brisk walk at moderate intensity (feels comfortable, makes you warm, slightly out of breath, but able to speak a sentence.
  • A jog/run is at a speed faster than walking where both feet are not in contact with the ground at the same time.
  • Always include a 10-minute cool-down walk at light intensity (feels easy, no shortness of breath and can have a conversation easily) at the end of each session incorporating some stretching into the cool-down.
Training Programme 2 – walk:

Each week you will need to allocate 4 or 5 sessions per week, ideally having a rest day in between training days. See pace descriptions at the end of this page.

Click the table below to enlarge/print:

Week 10 - Event Day, Oct 11th!


  • If you need to take a break, be sure to keep the feet moving to ensure a constant steady flow of blood around the body.
  • Take a break during the walks only if needed.
  • At the end of each session, always include a 10-minute cool-down walk at pace: light, incorporating some upper body and lower body stretches into the cool-down.


Pace Descriptions


  • Walk/Run with a friend or family member as you can motivate each other.
  • Wear comfortable footwear ideally a running shoe that has some support around the heel and cushioning underneath.
  • Always keep hydrated during your sessions and throughout the day (aim for at least 2/2.5L of water throughout the day).
  • Plan for rainy days, if you don’t wish to get wet,  plan on training indoors when it’s raining outside (a treadmill can be used or an indoor track) however, if you have never experienced a walk/jog/run in the rain you may be surprised how reviving it is (ps. just wear your raincoat).
  • To prevent injury, it is essential to warm-up and cooldown. A warm up of a walk for 15 minutes at a light pace will help warm up the muscles and a 10 minute cool down incorporating some stretches will help you cool down.
  • Include rest days between sessions but if this is not possible just listen to your body as the week’s progress.
  • Sometimes it is common to experience calf pain or pain in the shins the day after the session, if this occurs, apply a cold press for 15-20 minutes.
  • If you miss a day or week, do not fall off the wagon, start working from where you left it.
  • This programme is designed to ensure you will be able to complete your walk/jog/run even if you miss a week.
  • Print off your training programme and have it somewhere where it is at eye-view (e.g. on the fridge door) so you can track your progress and mark off each week as you complete the sessions.

Special thanks to our sponsor Evergreen Healthfoods.

Croi Night Run-25
Croi Night Run-4
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Support Goes Full-Circle

Croí is honoured to have been chosen as Aurivo’s charity partner for 2019. Each year, Aurivo choose a different charity to support in an effort to give back to the local community. Throughout the year, Aurivo employees, members and customers are running a series of events to help support the Courtyard Apartments at Croí House.

The Courtyard Apartments are a much-needed facility which allow family members to be as close as possible to patients who are in hospital for cardiac or stroke care in Galway University Hospitals. The apartments are open 365 days a year and have a 98% occupancy rate, with many families coming from the Mid/North West. Due to the high demand of the facility, Croí is extremely grateful for Aurivo’s support in helping us to continue providing this vital service to families all across Ireland.

In an event of total serendipity, the day Aurivo announced their partnership with Croí, a member of their staff required the services of the Courtyard Apartments. Energy Manager, Marty Dervin, who has worked with Aurivo for over 30 years, travelled to Galway after he experienced a problem with his stents following a heart attack in 2011. Marty had previously been unaware of the Courtyard Apartments which meant that the situation was a complete coincidence. Croí was delighted to help Marty and his family, who are from Ballina, and because of the Courtyard Apartments, he was able to undergo his procedure immediately.

The Courtyard Apartments at Croí House are there for those in need. They consist of three self-contained ground floor accommodation units, located just a ten-minute walk from University Hospital Galway. They are funded entirely by donations and events organised by Croí and have supported families from all over Ireland and even internationally.


For more information about the Courtyard Apartments, contact:
Tel: +353 91 544310
Email: info@croi.ie



A Fantastic Summer Outing

It was a beautiful day for the Croí Stroke Support Group summer outing!

We visited Rathbaun Farm in Ardrahan, where we met the wonderful Frances who served up her amazing homemade scones, rhubarb jam and cream! We also watched a sheepdog demo and a sheep shearing demo by Fintan on the farm.

We then visited Athenry Heritage Centre for a guided tour of the centre and we dressed up in medieval costume! Fantastic experience and welcome from the team at the Heritage Centre and Athenry Castle. We finished the day with dinner at The Old Barracks Restaurant – such a lovely welcome.

Our group of 45, including stroke survivors and stroke carers, had the best day for our annual summer outing, and we are so grateful to everyone that made it a great success.

Special thanks to Joe at Donoghues of Galway for transporting us safely and being so thoughtful with our group.

#strokesupport #strokecarers #stroke #summerouting #summerevent

Stroke Support Group summer outing_ (1)

Low Carbohydrate Diets

By Divya Ravikumar, Health Promotion Student and Registered Dietitian

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of 3 macronutrients (nutrients that form a large part of our diet) found in food – the others being fat and protein. Hardly any foods contain only 1 nutrient, and most are a combination of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in varying amounts. Typically, carbohydrates can be divided into the following categories:

  • simple/free sugars (jam, sweets, fruit juice)
  • complex/starchy carbohydrates (bread, rice, potato).

What counts as free sugars?

Free sugars are any sugars added to food (e.g. biscuits, chocolate, cake) or sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices. There is a lot of media and public interest in ‘sugar’ and the sugar debate can be very confusing as sugar can be found in many foods. Recent recommendations have suggested that it is important to be aware of ‘free sugars’ and to limit our intake of these. It is recommended that adults consume no more than 30g free sugar (approximately 7 teaspoons) per day. Make sure to be label aware as some carbohydrate foods (particularly processed items such as ready meals) can contain high levels of free sugars.

Where are free sugars found?

Table sugar, syrup, treacles, honeys, coconut sugar and fruit juice are all examples of free sugars.

What does not count as free sugar?

Natural sugars found in milk, fruit and vegetables.

Why do we need carbohydrates?

All carbohydrates will be converted to glucose, which can be used by our body as a source of energy, to keep our muscles and organs working.

Should I cut down on carbohydrates?

While we can most certainly survive without sugar, it would be quite difficult to eliminate carbohydrates entirely from your diet. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. In their absence, your body will use protein and fat for energy. It may also be hard to get enough fibre, which is important for long-term health. Healthy sources of carbohydrates, such as higher fibre starchy foods, vegetables, fruits and legumes, are also an important source of nutrients, such as calcium, iron and B vitamins. Significantly reducing carbohydrates from your diet in the long term could put you at increased risk of insufficient intakes of certain nutrients, potentially leading to health problems.

Cutting out carbohydrates fully from your diet could put you at increased risk of a deficiency in certain nutrients, leading to health problems, unless you’re able to make up for the nutritional shortfall with healthy substitutes. Replacing carbohydrates with fats and higher fat sources of protein could increase your intake of saturated fat, which can raise the amount of cholesterol in your blood – a risk factor for heart disease. When you’re low on glucose, the body breaks down stored fat to convert it into energy. This process causes a build-up of ketones in the blood, resulting in ketosis. Ketosis as a result of a low-carbohydrate diet can be linked, at least in the short term, to headaches, weakness, nausea, dehydration, dizziness and irritability. Try to limit the amount of sugary foods you eat and instead include healthier sources of carbohydrate in your diet, such as wholegrains, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, legumes and lower fat dairy products.

What happens if we don’t get enough carbohydrate?

If we do not have enough carbohydrate in our diet, our bodies can convert fatty acids into ‘energy’ to meet the demands of our brain. This causes the increase in levels of ketones in our bodies, which in rare cases has caused serious problems. It is very rare that you would have insufficient carbohydrate in your diet unless chronically malnourished or following an extremely low carbohydrate diet which is also lacking in protein. Some people with diabetes can be at risk of hypoglycaemia (too little blood glucose), which can be a result of a mismatch of dietary carbohydrate with medication and exercise. This potentially can also happen in some athletes performing endurance exercise. For most people this is rarely an issue, and if symptoms of low blood sugar occur, these should be medically investigated. Our brains tend to favour using glucose for energy, if we don’t have enough in our diets, then our brains have to adapt to using fats called ketones. While this adaptation is happening, the body has to breakdown protein, which could lead to loss of muscle.

Low – carb diets and weight loss

Low-carbohydrate diets (i.e. defined as diets containing between 50g and 130g carbohydrate) can be effective in managing weight, improving glycaemic control and cardiovascular risk in people with Type 2 diabetes in the short term i.e. less than 12 months (Diabetes UK 2018). This is probably due to the accompanying reduction in energy (calorie) intake and subsequent weight loss (Diabetes UK 2018).

More research is needed to ascertain the long-term health impacts of low-carbohydrate diets, including on heart health. For this reason, it is best to adhere to Irish healthy eating and portion size guidelines as detailed below. 

If you choose to adopt a low-carb diet

It is still possible to adhere to standard portion sizes and serving guidelines and adopt a low-carb diet.

For example, having one portion of oats at breakfast, 2 slices of bread at lunch and 4 baby potatoes at dinner, along with an apple, orange and a banana would add up to approximately 123g carbohydrate. This falls within low-carbohydrate guidelines and would still meet Irish eating healthy guidelines for carbohydrate and contributes towards your fruit and vegetable intake for the day.

We do not recommend restricting fruit intake as it does not contain large amounts of carbohydrate in the correct portion size and fruit is an excellent snack and source of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Eating Healthy When Out and About

By Christine Houlihan, Sligo IT student on placement with Croí

Whether it’s the Monday morning breakfast roll to work or high tea on Sunday with the girls, there has never been more reason or temptation to eat outside of the home. More and more we find ourselves spending less time at home and more time out and about for things like work and meeting with family and friends.

It is estimated that one quarter of our calories come from foods and drinks cooked and prepared outside of the home. Cafés, restaurants, bars, canteens, delis, takeaways, meetings and markets, the list is endless. In general the foods and drinks served tend to be high in calories, fat, sugar and salt, which makes them oh so tempting but not the greatest for our waistlines or long term health.

Eating out is here to stay, but how do you experience all of the joy but none of the guilt that eating out has to offer? Here are some tips on eating healthy when out and about.

Tips for Eating Out the Healthy Way

  • Fail to plan and plan to fail, take time to plan your meals in advance. If you find yourself eating out a lot then try and have a healthy go-to spot. Some places have a sample menu on their website giving you a taste of what’s on offer and even sometimes the calorie content of meals.
  • Don’t arrive too hungry, as you are more likely to make poor decisions and overeat at your meal. It’s more difficult to avoid nibbling on bread sticks beforehand and overeating if you arrive too hungry. Avoid overdoing it by eating healthy snacks like fruit and nuts between meals if hungry.
  • Downsize your portion, ask for a half portion of your meal. In asking for a half portion it allows you to enjoy your preferred meal without overeating and feeling bloated. Many restaurants will be able to package up the remainder of the meal, meaning you get to re-visit the experience in the comfort of your own home.
  • Fill up on lower fat foods, eat a variety of vegetables, salads, fruits and legumes with your meals. Filling up on these foods helps you to feel fuller for longer and avoid overeating richer foods served as part of the meal. Try snacking on fruit if hungry before a meal, having salad as a sandwich filler, and ordering a side salad or bowl of vegetables instead of additional chips and potatoes.
  • Skip the extras, don’t be afraid to ask for alterations and substitutions to your meal. Ask that butter or mayonnaise not be added to sandwiches, salad dressings and sauces on the side, boiled vegetables without added butter and for a cup of soup or side salad instead of chips or wedges.
  • Embrace a challenge, try and opt for a more veggie-based option. Eating out is the perfect time to try tasty meals you would not normally prepare at home. Whether it’s a veggie lasagna or three bean Shepherd’s pie, very few of your favorites no longer have a meat free counterpart. Opting for a vegetarian option can make the meal more exciting and give you some inspiration on how to incorporate more vegetables, salads, fruits and legumes into your diet.
  • Focus more on the people. Try and focus your attention on the people at the meal. Sharing a meal with others is a wonderful way to socialize. Directing your attention to those you are sharing a meal with can draw you away from temptations on menu boards whilst also slow down your eating and dining experience.
  • Mindful Eating: eat with intention and attention. Mindful eating is a way of caring for your body. It can help you avoid overindulging whilst still enjoy the food experience to the full. Slow down and take time to scan the menu, take in the atmosphere, eat slowly, stay present noting all of the smells, tastes and textures of the meal. And when it’s time to stop, STOP. Don’t dwell on your mother telling you to clean your plate. Once full, leave a napkin over the plate or ask to have what’s left over boxed up to take home.
  • Skip dessert or split dessert, and go for a walk. It’s no easy task to turn a blind eye to a selection of pastries at a meetings or the “special” on a desserts board. If you know you are going to be faced with a not so sweet decision try and pack a naturally sweet snack like fruit or a healthier homemade dessert. If temptation wins then why not share your delicious treat with someone and follow it up with a brisk walk to avoid going back for more.
  • If having a little holiday, pack a picnic. With the summer months upon us and the sun coming out, it has never been a better time to pull out the picnic blankets and dust off the plastic cutlery. Have a rummage through your fridge and get planning a tasty selection of sandwiches and salads filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables. You will know exactly what’s in your lunch and will be amazed by how much money you save and fun you have in the process.

Men’s Health Matters…Make the Time. Take the Time.

This week is International Men’s Health Week! Here is Val’s story about taking control of his health:

Val Browne, aged 69, joined the Ballina Men’s Shed last year following the death of his wife.

He attended a Croí HeartSmart screening last September in the Shed as part of a health initiative. Val had no previous history of heart disease or particular risk factors, but at the screening a Croí nurse discovered he had high blood pressure and was advised to attend his GP. “I got the shock of my life. I’d be the last person you would think had high blood pressure… I never had any health problems,” says Val.

High blood pressure can damage your arteries and increase your chances of heart disease, stroke and suffering kidney damage. Two days later Val still had no plans to see his GP: “The Croí nurse called me and urged me again to see my GP, so I finally went.” Val’s high blood pressure was persistent, so his GP arranged further monitoring and treatment. “I had no symptoms, but that’s why they call it the silent killer,” says Val.

He is now very aware of his blood pressure readings and understands that it is important to look after your blood pressure and to keep it at healthy levels. “The Croí screening was the best thing ever. You saved me and you saved one or two more on that day too!” says Val.

Men’s Health Matters…Make the Time. Take the Time.