COVID-19: Advice for individuals living with heart disease or stroke

The Croí Health Team is here as always if you need support. Contact us by email at healthteam@croi.ie or call 091-544310.

Updated November 30th

A message from Prof. Bill McEvoy, Consultant Cardiologist, Medical and Research Director National Institute for Prevention and Cardiovascular Health, Croí Heart and Stroke Centre.    

COVID-19 has had a major impact on all our lives. While we still have much to learn about this disease and the virus that causes it, we do know that adults with underlying medical conditions – inclusive of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease – tend to have worse outcomes and become sicker when stricken by COVID-19. This is particularly true for adults over 70 years. While the death rate from this infection is less than 1% for most people, it can rise to 5-10% among the very old and those with many underlying medical conditions. Therefore, this is a serious disease that deserves ongoing our attention and vigilance.

One of the less known issues with COVID-19 is that it can result in complications among infected adults who were previously healthy. While these adults have a very high chance of surviving the infection (over 99%), they are consequently vulnerable to any long-term side effects and complications from the virus. Without doubt, these long-term complications appear to be UNCOMMON; however, they do exist. For example, we know that, in rare cases, COVID-19 can injure the heart (leading to damage from a condition called myocarditis or ‘type 2 myocardial infarction’). The frequency with which these cardiac complications happen, the exact reasons why they happen (hypothesized to be related to inflammation or an increased propensity for blood clotting among those infected), and the reversibility or responsiveness to treatment of these complications remains an open question. Long-term complications in other body organs have been reported also, so this concern is not just unique to the heart.

Therefore, until these questions are answered, I encourage you all, even if young and healthy, to take this disease seriously. If you do get infected, your chances of a complete recovery are very high. We should not live in fear. However, why take any chances, everyone has a role to play in reducing the spread of this virus and if we all take collective responsibility we will minimise the risk for everyone.

What do the latest restrictions mean?

  • Ireland is moving to Level 3 on December 1, with a number of exceptions in place for the Christmas period. See the full breakdown here on the Government website.
  • From 1 December, you should not mix with any other households outside of those within your support bubble. From 18 December, you can mix with a maximum of 2 other households.
  • You should wear a face covering in crowded workplaces, places of worship and in busy or crowded outdoor spaces where there is significant congregation.
  • Celebrate safely this festive season – stay safe and protect each other:
    • minimise in person contacts
    • wear a face covering and wash hands regularly
    • shop safely, avoid crowds indoors and outside
    • if you feel unwell, don’t risk it – stay home and contact your GP
    • keep fresh air circulating in your home
  • From 7 January, the measures put in place prior to 18 December will apply, subject to ongoing review of the trajectory of the virus.

Key Messages

The key messages remain the same. We need to Stay Safe.

  • Physical distancing should continue to be maintained at all times.
  • Continue to follow good hand washing, respiratory hygiene and physical distancing because we know these work and are now more important than ever.
  • Face coverings are now required on public transport and should be worn in shops and shopping centres and in situations where physical distancing is not possible. For further guidelines and information about how to correctly fit/ remove face mask visit the HSE website.
  • If you have cold or flu like symptoms, even mild ones, it is important to isolate at home and call your GP
  • People over 70 years and the extremely medically vulnerable, remain at the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and are advised to take extra caution. This includes people living with cardiovascular disease.  It is important that you continue to attend essential medical services such as GPs and receive medical care at home (if appropriate) to protect your health and wellbeing.

Further information on latest updates can be found on the Government’s website.

The Croí Health team are determined to stay connected with all our groups and supporters and aim to keep you informed and up to date on a regular basis. We will continuously explore the latest evidence on COVID-19 and cardiovascular disease and will share this important information with you.

Everyone has a role to play in reducing the spread of this virus and if we all take collective responsibility we will minimise the risk for everyone.

Is there any specific advice for individuals living with heart disease or stroke?

For heart and stroke patients, prevention is key. While it is normal to feel anxious about how this condition might affect you, you are at no greater risk of developing COVID-19 than anyone else. However if you do contract the virus you have a higher chance of developing complications.

As you are at higher risk of a more serious illness if you contract Coronavirus, you are being advised to stay at home as much as possible and to limit your social contact. We strongly urge you to take extra care in ensuring you follow all of the recommended precautions. Please see advice below regarding cocooning.

While all individuals with underlying cardiovascular disease are at increased risk of complications if affected by COVID-19, those at greatest risk include individuals who have:

  • Had a heart transplant
    • At any time in the past or more recently.
  • Are pregnant with a heart condition
    • Lung viruses can cause severe illness in pregnant women, particularly those with an underlying heart condition.
      • Heart conditions include: symptomatic coronary disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (if it affects your heart function), thickening of the heart muscle (left ventricular hypertrophy, pulmonary hypertension, a moderate / severely narrowed or leaking heart valve, heart failure that affects your left ventricular function, or significant congenital heart disease.
  • Had recent open heart surgery
    • Including coronary artery bypass grafts (CABG) and valve repair or replacement.
  • Heart failure
    • Especially if you have been recently diagnosed, it affects your activities of daily living or you have been recently hospitalised for treatment.
  • Heart valve disease
    • Where this is severe disease or you have ongoing symptoms or are awaiting valve surgery.
    • A heart murmur in itself where you do not have symptoms or not diagnosed with valve disease does not increase your risk.
  • Congenital heart disease
    • There are many types, but in particular if you have complex disease or have other underlying conditions increasing your vulnerability.
  • Cardiomyopathy
    • Any type if you have ongoing symptoms or your daily activities are limited.
  • Angina
    • That limits your daily activities or means you have to use your GTN spray frequently.
  • Heart disease with other health conditions such as chronic kidney disease and lung disease.

With the emphasis being on minimising contact outside the home, it is still important to maintain your healthy lifestyle habits and not to disregard your usual exercise routine. As it may not be possible to continue outdoors, please visit the Croí website for lots of helpful health tips and advice to keep you on track.

Refill your medication prescription as normal and have over the counter medications such as paracetamol and a thermometer in your home. There is no disruption to the supply of medicines and therefore there is no need to order more medicines than you need.  Ask a family member to collect any medicines you need. If you do feel unwell, it’s still really important to carry on taking any medication you’ve been prescribed and speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Look after your emotional health and well-being. Any unexpected changes to our daily lives can be a source of stress and COVID -19 is no different. It is important to obtain information from reputable sources and focus on the facts rather than opinions on social media.

Cocooning

What is cocooning?

Cocooning is a recommendation from the HSE and the Irish government to protect those who are most at risk of developing serious complications if they contract the COVID-19 virus. Cocooning aims to minimize interaction between those most at risk and others.

What should I do?

  • Try to stay at home as much as possible.
  • Avoid physical contact with other people.
  • Limit your social interactions to a small social group for short periods of time – this is sometimes called a “social bubble”.
  • People who visit to help care for you should still attend as long as they have no symptom’s of COVID-19. Ask them to wash their hands on arrival and when possible keep 2 meters apart.
  • Avoid anyone who is sick. If you usually have carers, have a backup plan in case one of them becomes unwell.
  • You can ask your family to keep in touch with you via WhatsApp, video or social media so you don’t miss out.
  • If you need to contact your GP, use the telephone.
  • You may leave the house to get fresh air or exercise within 5km of your home, if social distancing is observed.

 Do I need to Cocoon?

The HSE have advised the following people to cocoon:

  • people aged 70 years or over
  • solid organ transplant recipients (including heart transplant)
  • people with specific cancers, rare diseases, respiratory conditions
  • women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired

In addition to HSE recommendations, international cardiac societies advise people living with the following conditions to cocoon:

  • Heart conditions include symptomatic coronary disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (if it affects your heart function)
  • Had recent open heart surgery
  • Heart failure
  • Heart valve disease– that is moderate or severe
  • Significant congenital heart disease
  • Cardiomyopathy-any type if you have ongoing symptoms or your daily activities are limited
  • Those with Angina that limits your daily activities or means you have to use your GTN spray frequently

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The main symptoms to watch out for are:

  • A cough
  • A high temperature
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Loss of taste or sense of smell

Other symptoms are fatigue, headaches, sore throat, aches and pains. But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and are concerned you should contact your GP for further advice.

How to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19

Coronavirus is spread by droplet infection – coughing and sneezing or by close contact with someone who has the virus. As it’s a new illness, we do not know how easily the virus spreads from person to person. Spread is most likely from those who have symptoms.

In accordance with recent guidelines, people should stay at home as much as possible to limit close contacts. You should only leave home to:

  • Go to work
  • Take children to school or childcare
  • Go to shops for essential supplies
  • Care for others
  • Attend hospital and medical appointments
  • Avoid hand shaking and close contact with people- keep a distance of 2 meters (6.5 feet) between you and others
  • Work from home if, and where possible
  • Make a joint plan with family friends and neighbours on what to do if you become ill

Travel

Self-quarantine and self-isolation

  • To help stop the spread of Coronavirus, you may need to either self-quarantine or self-isolate:
    • Self-quarantine means avoiding contact with other people and social situations as much as possible. You will need to do this if you are a close contact of a confirmed case of coronavirus and you are still well.
    • Self-isolation means staying indoors and completely avoiding contact with other people. You will need to do this if you have symptoms of coronavirus.

Other Do's and Don't's

Do:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • Always wash your hands when you get home or arrive at work
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

Don’t:

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • Do not share objects that touch your mouth. For example, bottles and cups
  • Do not shake hands
  • Don’t have visitors to your home, unless they are helping with your care needs

Treatment for COVID-19

There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for COVID 19. The treatment approach involves alleviating symptoms and reducing the risk of others becoming infected. This includes:

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • Taking paracetamol to help with symptoms such as a high temperature
  • Staying in isolation away from other people until you have recovered

Further information

For further information you can visit the following websites:

Christmas Cards

Send Hope and Love this Christmas with Croí Cards

Inspired by the hopeful words of Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, Croí has launched its 2020 Christmas Card Collection, featuring extracts from the President’s poem, Take Care:

In the journey to the light,

the dark moments

should not threaten.

Hold firm.

Take care.

Come home

together.

The special 2020 edition cards (12 total) feature new images, including a stunning snowy photograph of the Long Walk in the Claddagh, Galway, and the majestic Mount Errigal in Donegal. All cards carry words from the poem Take Care and a Christmas greetings in both Irish and English. The pack costs just €6.99, with all proceeds supporting Croí, the Heart & Stroke Charity, in the fight against heart disease and stroke. Cards are printed in Ireland, supporting Irish jobs.

It’s been a tough year. Let your loved ones know that you are thinking of them, especially if you cannot be with them this Christmas. Send hope and love with a Croí Christmas card.

The 2020 Croí Christmas cards are available to purchase through local outlets or online at www.croi.ie/ChristmasCards.

Golden TIcket

Support Croí’s Golden Ticket Raffle this Christmas

A message from Christine Flanagan, Croí’s Director of Fundraising

As we come to the end of this hard year, I hope you and your loved ones are safe, and that you’ll be able to be with each other at Christmas.

Sharon and her husband, Noel

However, Christmas isn’t an easy time for some. Sharon used to love Christmas, but she says, “Ever since my mum died of a heart attack, it’s been hard. She was too young!”

Watching a family member suffer is a heart-breaking experience. That’s why, with your help, Croí Heart and Stroke Charity acts as a safe haven to families whose loved ones have been rushed to hospital for emergency heart or stroke care.

COVID-19 has upended the entire world, and Croí is no exception. People with heart disease who get COVID-19 can be at a much greater risk. Yet most of the events that usually support our work have been cancelled. That’s why, this year, our annual Golden Ticket Raffle campaign is more important than ever.

Tickets are just €5, with a €5,000 cash fund. Most importantly, each ticket you sell will help Croí keep families like Sharon’s together.

Sharon hasn’t only been the terrified loved one of a patient. She’s been a patient fearing for her life, too. Two years ago, when Sharon was just 40, a cardiac stress test showed she had a heart condition so serious her doctor said she shouldn’t even go home. She was told to go straight to Galway University Hospital for further tests and evaluation.

At Galway, it was discovered that Sharon needed immediate surgery to insert a cardiac stent to prevent a heart attack. She was kept in hospital for her safety.

Sharon was terribly frightened and anxious. She needed her family, especially her husband Noel, to be with her. But they lived five hours away in Donegal. The idea of staying in an expensive Galway hotel indefinitely with the whole family just added unnecessary stress.

Sharon and Noel

When one of Sharon’s nurses saw how distressed Noel was to go back to Donegal so far away, she called Croí. The nurse knew that, thanks to you, we provide over 100 families a year a place to stay in Galway at the Courtyard Apartments at Croí House, where they can be close to loved ones during cardiac treatments. These apartments are funded entirely by donations from people like you and fundraisers like the Golden Ticket Raffle.

This made all the difference. Noel could be with Sharon all day long, and return to a private apartment to shower, sleep and recover. And he was able to bring Caitlín, Sharon’s oldest daughter, with him from Donegal.

Caitlín told me, “That meant so much to me. I was unsettled at home in Donegal, with Mum in the hospital. I felt much better in Galway with her.”

Sharon’s fears were relieved with Noel and her daughter nearby.

Sharon’s dad was so grateful for what Croí did for his daughter and her family, he wanted to do his part. He held an epic fundraiser for Croí, driving his 1961 Vintage Tractor from Mizen Head to Malin Head to raise €12,000 to help prevent heart disease!

Tragically, not long after his amazing effort, Sharon’s dad had a heart attack himself and passed away — despite having no prior symptoms. In addition to her grief about losing a second parent to heart disease, Sharon also became worried about Noel, who had high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

So when Croí opened HeartLink West, a special telephone helpline, in May, Sharon and Noel called. Together with the nurses of HeartLink West, Sharon and Noel’s family came up with a plan to address and improve Noel’s health concerns. As they need continued consultation, Sharon’s mind is put at ease, knowing that the support they need is only a phone call away.

Sharon and Family

The impact of heart disease on a single family like Sharon’s shows just how common it is in Ireland, and how critical Croí’s mission is. Sharon lives every day with the pain of loss, and worries about her own health. She is terrified for the health of her loved ones.

She asked me to tell you, “Please do whatever you can for Croí! It’s a great cause!”

What would help so much right now is for you to help make our Golden Ticket Raffle a huge success this Christmas. Each ticket costs just €5, and there are so many great cash prizes to win, with a total prize fund of €5,000!

It’s easy to sell tickets to friends, neighbours or work colleagues, and we now have an online option. Just go to www.croi.ie/raffle and enter your unique ID#. You can also buy tickets for yourself or use them as gifts. The raffle takes place on the 21st of December, so there’s time to request more tickets. The more tickets you have, the more chances you have to win amazing cash prizes. And every ticket you sell helps provide education, lifestyle programs, cardiac research, and support services like HeartLink West — as well as a comforting place to stay at Courtyard Apartments for families who are dealing with fear and stress.

You’ll help heart patients and families, too, so please sell as many Golden Tickets as you can and return the funds in the enclosed envelope. Every Golden Ticket counts!

Sincerely,

Christine Flanagan

Director of Fundraising

HalloweenClasses

Trick or Treat yourself Fit with Croí

The trick to getting fit and staying healthy is picking the right exercise for you. To give you a helping hand, Croí, the Heart & Stroke Charity, have developed a new class timetable in a virtual format so you have the ability to participate from the comfort of your own home! These classes include: Mojo Moves, Nifty Lifters, Yoga, Yogalates, CLANN Fitness and Regenerate.

The treat is that being physically active prevents and helps control a multitude of health problems especially heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity. Our class offerings provide accessible fun and enjoyable fitness solutions. We offer an opportunity for healthy individuals and those with diabetes, heart disease, pulmonary disease and other long-term health condition, to commence safe and beneficial exercise led by trained professionals. Classes are ideally suited to anyone trying to improve their overall health and wellbeing.

“Our classes have been very successful over the past few years and thus we now see the need to improve and increase our virtual offerings. Many of our participants have improved their cardiovascular fitness, decreased their risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and overall participants are living healthier lives,” says Croi’s Physiotherapy Manager, Denise Dunne.

Classes include both aerobic and weight lifting offerings and are specially designed to suit all levels of fitness. Prior to enrolling in the classes, individuals will be assessed to ascertain current fitness levels and exercise will be prescribed based on this assessment. “The social interaction and group inclusion is also another benefit of our classes. Over the last few months it has been a pleasure to see the many friendships develop between class members, albeit virtually,” says Dunne.

Participants really enjoy the classes, saying: “Just brilliant – did things I have never done before” and “enjoyed all aspects of the class, the structure was excellent and the variety of exercises was very good”. Above all, participants commented that “it helps me to continue on the right track”.

Classes start the week of October 27th online via Zoom. For further information or to book a place on any of our classes please head over to our website www.croi.ie/classes or call Croí on 091-544310.

Putting Focus on Stroke – World Stroke Day, Thursday October 29th.

As many as 1 in 5 people in Galway will have a stroke at some time in their lives. A stroke which is a ‘brain attack’ – is to the brain, what a heart attack is to the heart, says local heart & stroke charity Croí, ahead of World Stoke Day on Thursday October 29th.

“Stroke is one of the biggest causes of death and disability across the world” says Croí CEO Neil Johnson. “A stroke, which is a blood clot or bleed in the brain, can be fatal and cause death or cause irreversible damage to different parts of the brain which control, for example, our speech, our thinking or our movement. Many causes of stroke are completely outside of our control, however, there are some causes which we can prevent, such as high blood pressure or untreated heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation.

To mark World Stroke Day, Croí invites people to a FREE Webinar on Thursday October 29th from 7pm – 8.30pm to learn more about stroke, stroke recovery and how to prevent one. A panel of local medical and nursing experts will speak on the causes and signs and symptoms of a stroke while a local stroke survivor will share her experience of stroke, stroke recovery and living life after a stroke. The event is supported by local company, Surmodics (Ballinasloe) who are corporate partners to the Croí Stroke Programmes & Supports.

Announcing details of the event, Croí CEO Neil Johnson says “this is a great opportunity to learn more about stroke, its impact and most importantly the steps we can take to reduce our risk of a stroke. People usually think of a stroke as an older persons problem but unfortunately, stroke has no respect for age or gender. In fact, we are increasingly seeing more cases or ‘young and working age’ strokes. The impact of a stroke can be devastating both for the survivor and their families. While incredible advances have been made in terms of stroke detection and stroke treatment, we have a long way to go in Ireland in terms of stroke recovery and rehabilitation post hospital discharge.”

Guest speakers on the Croí World Stroke Day Webinar on October 29th are:

  • Dr Niamh Hannon, Stroke Specialist, Galway University Hospital
  • Trish Galvin, Advanced Nurse Practitioner in Stroke Care, Galway University Hospital
  • Ciara Breen, Senior Occupational Therapist, Galway University Hospital
  • Norita Ní Chartúr, Stroke Survivor

Registration for this Webinar, which is FREE, is now open at www.croi.ie/strokeday20

Charity ‘Virtual Night Run’ attracts almost 2,000 participants!

The 6th Annual Croí Night Run (5km) scheduled for October 9th was yet another in a line of West of Ireland charity fundraising events that had to be ‘re-imagined’ due to Covid-19. Despite having to be changed to a ‘virtual event’, the Night Run which has become one of the charity’s biggest annual fundraising events, exceeded all expectations this year, attracting almost 2,000 participants and raising over €70,000.

Thanks to the event sponsor, Evergreen Healthfoods, 100% of proceeds from this event will go directly to Croí. This year’s media sponsor, iRadio, partnered with Croí in the run up to the event and throughout the day with motivational programming to encourage runners as they took on their 5k.

One of the unexpected benefits of becoming a ‘virtual’ event was that runners and walkers from all over the west of Ireland and indeed from as far away as Perth, Australia and New York USA were able to participate. Just under 2,000 people across towns & villages throughout counties Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Donegal, Clare and Limerick, together with hundreds of people throughout Ireland, UK, Europe, Australia and USA did their own 5km walk or run on Oct 9th or on subsequent nights in support of the fight against heart disease and stroke in the West of Ireland.

“While we were disappointed not to be able to have our annual Night Run on the Salthill Promenade this year, our first priority is to protect those we serve as they are most at risk of COVID-19, so we decided to pivot to a virtual event.   We have been overwhelmed by the show of support from all of those who have joined us in the new format ”says Croí’s Director of Fundraising, Christine Flanagan.

Speaking after the event, Croí CEO Neil Johnson said “the level of support this year has been phenomenal. Despite all the challenges of the pandemic, people has shown enormous generosity and demonstrated huge support for our work. At a time of greatest need, we are hugely grateful to everyone who supported us. The funds raised this year will be used to support our Covid Response Initiatives which include ‘Heartlink West’ – a dedicated phone and on-line support service for those living with or affected by heart disease and stroke. Our multi-disciplinary health team are responding to up to 80 calls per week from across the west of Ireland from those with heart and stroke concerns and worries as a consequence of Covid-19 ”

The Croí Heartlink West support and advice service is available free of charge, Monday to Friday by calling 091-544310.

Christine Flanagan, Director of Fundraising, Croí; Kieran & Aideen Hurley, Owners, Evergreen Healthfoods

Global Alliance on Heart Failure & Healthy Aging Launches Best Practices Report on Heart Failure Detection, Diagnosis, Treatment and Care

The report highlights the importance of better detection and earlier diagnosis, a life-course and multidisciplinary management approach to heart failure (HF), and care-delivery models that are suited to older adults.

Today, the Global Alliance on Heart Failure and Healthy Aging, convened by the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA), is launching the report “Tackling Heart Failure As We Age: Best Practices in Heart Failure Detection, Diagnosis, Treatment and Care.” The paper demonstrates that heart failure is not a normal part of the aging process but in fact can be more effectively detected and diagnosed to ensure better treatment and management of HF. By offering a clear set of success factors to improve prevention and care for heart failure and highlighting case studies from the United States and Europe, the report aims to reduce the ageism associated with HF and therefore improve the lives of those with and at risk of HF.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, progress in heart failure care was stalled. Survival after a diagnosis of heart failure has only modestly improved in the 21st century and lags behind other serious conditions” said Michael W. Hodin, PhD, CEO of GCOA. “It’s time to rethink the way our health systems detect, diagnose, treat and care for people with heart failure. A place to start with this re-thinking is how ageism adversely shapes how we approach older people with symptoms that results in delayed or non-diagnosis too often until it’s too late.”

More people die annually from cardiovascular disease than from any other cause. As populations age, urbanization spreads, and the control of infectious and childhood diseases improves, cardiovascular disease (CVD) prominence rises alongside things like high-fat diets, smoking, and sedentary lifestyles. The increase in CVD deaths during the current COVID-19 pandemic, because of the increased risk of contracting COVID-19 or because of the lack of or hesitation to seeking medical care, points to questions about optimal treatment and care.

The report underlines the inadequacies of today’s health systems to deal with heart failure as the population of older adults keeps growing. It identifies four best practice areas to help improve HF diagnosis and care, and therefore the lives of patients living with HF and overall health system costs.

  • Early heart failure detection and diagnosis efforts must be enhanced.
  • Patient must be empowered through a life-course approach to prevention, detection, and management of heart failure.
  • Multidisciplinary care teams led by clinicians with specialized training in cardiology can meet the varied and changing needs of people with heart failure and their families and can help to ensure seamless transitions and closely coordinated treatment efforts.
  • Health systems should embrace innovative care-delivery models suited to older patients.

As heart failure affects at least 26 million people around the world, it is notably one of the few cardiovascular conditions that is increasing in prevalence—the total cost of heart failure is predicted to increase 127% by 2030. Lending urgency to the challenge, the World Heart Federation’s heart failure roadmap estimates that there are 11.7 million cases of undiagnosed heart failure globally.

“Mortality linked to heart failure remains high, with 45-60% of people dying within the five years following a first admission to the hospital. This results in increased costs for healthcare systems, and most importantly in lower quality of life for patients and huge emotional burden for families” highlights Jean-Luc Eiselé, CEO, World Heart Federation and member of the Alliance’s Governing Board.

As the global population over 60 is predicted to double by mid-century, reaching 2 billion, it is more urgent than ever for health systems to rethink their response to heart failure.

To learn more about these key areas for action, you can access the report by clicking here.

To learn more about GCOA’s work to highlight innovative approaches to heart failure diagnosis and care as we age, check GCOA’s cross-sectoral session on heart failure, data, digital solutions and patient empowerment that took place during the World Summit of Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2020. The session was part of the first-ever “information and communication technologies and older persons” track at WSIS.

As Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week Gets Underway, Croí Urges Government to Offer Free Annual Cardiac Check for Over 55s

Survey of 1,000 People Over 60 Years Finds Low Awareness of Heart Valve Disease, its Symptoms & the Need for Stethoscope Checks

The European Heart Health Survey, an international survey of people over 60 years across 11 European countries, has found very low awareness in Ireland of heart valve disease and of certain symptoms requiring medical attention. Heart valve disease is largely a condition of ageing and, when it comes to a simple stethoscope check that can diagnose it, one in five respondents say that they either never have a stethoscope check or only have one when they ask their GP for it.

Croí, the heart and stroke charity, is calling for Government to offer everyone over 55 years a free annual cardiac check to ensure early diagnosis of a range of cardiovascular diseases. The call comes as International Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week gets underway from September 14-20. The week is an initiative of the Global Heart Hub, an international alliance of heart patient organisations from around the world, and is led in Ireland by Croí.

Rising Numbers

Heart valve disease is where one or more of the valves in the heart is diseased or damaged, giving rise to a narrowing of the valve (stenosis) or causing leakage (regurgitation), meaning the heart can’t pump blood effectively.

For too many people, symptoms are either not recognised or ignored and this can have fatal consequences. People perhaps recognise more overt symptoms such as chest pain and irregular heartbeat, but more understated symptoms such as breathlessness and tiredness, can be important red flags as well.

Estimates suggest that 13% of people over 75 years will experience heart valve disease. There are over 2.7 million people across Europe age 65 and over thought to have heart valve disease with this figure set to rise to 20 million Europeans within the next two decades due to changing age demographics.

If severe aortic stenosis is left untreated – the most common form of heart valve disease – 50% of patients will die within two years of developing symptoms. While common and serious, heart valve disease is very treatable.

Survey Highlights

The European Heart Health Survey by Censuswide questioned 1,000 people over 60 years in Ireland and found:

  • Awareness: only 5% of respondents could accurately define aortic stenosis, the most prevalent type of heart valve disease – 95% could not. This compares with 12% in the Netherlands who could accurately define the condition
  • Diagnosis: only a third (32%) claim to receive a stethoscope check that can detect a heart murmur at every GP visit – compared with 76% in France and 57% in Belgium. One in ten (9%) say they never receive a stethoscope check from their GP and a similar number (10%) only when they ask for one
  • Symptoms: while the majority of respondents would seek an appointment with a general practitioner for symptoms such as chest tightness/pain (87%), shortness of breath (68%), abnormal heartbeats (67%) or feeling faint (51%), only a minority would seek medical help if they had some of the other key symptoms of aortic stenosis, such as fatigue (30%), reduced physical activity (21%) and feeling older than your age (18%)
  • Treatment: those surveyed would prefer a keyhole procedure (69%) over open-heart surgery (5%), or daily/weekly drug therapy for the treatment of a heart condition (24%)
  • Economy: respondents are key contributors to the economy, playing an important role as carers with almost a third (28%) providing care for someone close to them
  • Community: more than four fifths (87%) regularly participate in activities, including sports (56%), volunteering for a charity or community (31%), and social activities with their peers (26%)

Benefits are Clear

For Neil Johnson, CEO, Croí, the provision of a free annual cardiac check for the over 55s would have clear health and economic benefits:
“Heart valve disease is predominantly an age-related condition. As we get older, the greater the chances of developing it. Early detection and timely treatment not only reduce the impact of the disease but increase longevity with enhanced quality of life.

“Globally we are living longer and it’s in everyone’s interest that we maintain good health and quality of life for as long as possible. A stethoscope check is an inexpensive means of undertaking early diagnosis for heart valve disease and everyone over 65 years should have one at least once a year.

“This combined with checks for other cardiovascular diseases such as a pulse check for atrial fibrillation, blood tests for heart failure and cholesterol, and blood pressure checks for heart attack and stroke, should form part of a comprehensive annual cardiac check.

“This International Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week, we are calling on Government to provide a national free annual cardiac check for everyone over the age of 55. These are simple, inexpensive and non-invasive tests, and the many benefits of implementing such an initiative are clearly evident.”

For Prof. Dr. Helge Möllmann, Klinik für Innere Medizin I, St.-Johannes-Hospital, Dortmund, and lead author of the survey, it is important that older people know about the disease and the symptoms to look out for:

“The senior population are a group at risk, more so as they grow older, so it is important that they are more aware of the disease and understand the severity of often hidden symptoms to help ensure early diagnosis and timely treatment. It is estimated by the age of 75, the prevalence of heart valve disease is 13%. More work needs to be done to shift the awareness level and that is why this week, Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week, is a key step for improved patient outcomes.”

Full information on the week can be found at www.croi.ie/valveweek.

Croí Night Run goes virtual – join our 10-week training plan now!

The much-anticipated 6th Annual Croí Galway Night Run (5km) is back on Friday, October 9, but this year we are going virtual! You can run, walk or jog the 5km anytime throughout the day or on the night on a local route of your choice. The event is once again sponsored by Evergreen Healthfoods, with 100% of proceeds going directly to Croí. This year’s media sponsor is once again iRadio, who are creating an exciting playlist to motivate you on the day of the event.

Why not team up with a group of family, friends or work colleagues and commit now to covering the 5km distance anytime on October 9. Of course, please ensure personal safety and social distancing. If you choose to run at night, please wear reflective clothing and choose a well-lit route.

“Last year, over 1,600 people joined us on the Salthill Prom for the 5th Annual Croí Night Run, raising over €70,000, and we are so grateful for this support. We would love to be back on the Prom this year, but our first priority is to protect those that we serve as they are most at risk of COVID-19, so we are following Government guidelines and going virtual instead. People living with heart disease and stroke need our help now more than ever before, so we ask you to please join us again this year virtually,” says Christine Flanagan, Croí’s Director of Fundraising.

The Croí health team have developed a 10-week training plan to help you get across your finish line – all ages and abilities are welcome to join. The Night Run Training Plan will prepare you for your finishing line by gradually building up your ability week by week. Take on the Croí Night Run and make a positive change to your lifestyle – It has been proven that regular exercise assists with maintaining a healthy weight and lowers your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Engaging in regular, routine exercise will also contribute to positive changes in your mental health and overall well-being.

Registration is now open at €25 for adults or €15 for youths over 12 years of age. Teams are also welcome – for more information, please contact christine@croi.ie. Each participant will receive a goodie bag with a special commemorative Croí Night Run long-sleeve running top to wear on the day. Learn more and register now at www.croi.ie/nightrun.

Pictured at the launch of the virtual Croí Night Run, from left: Christine Flanagan, Director of Fundraising, Croí; Aideen Hurley, Evergreen Healthfoods (Sponsor); and Sharron Lynskey, iRadio (Media Partner).

Take a Summer Cycle in aid of Croí and help people living with heart disease and stroke

Pictured at the launch of 'My Summer Cycle for Croí' at Croí House, Galway, from left: Prof. Jim Crowley (Medical Director Croí); Bernard Dempsey (Corrib Oil, Tuam); Alan Connolly (Westside Bikes); and Paul Burke (Corrib Oil Tuam). Photo: Boyd Challenger

Croí, the Heart and Stroke Charity is thrilled to announce ‘My Summer Cycle for Croí’, taking place this August Bank Holiday weekend – your distance, your route, your way!

Join Croí supporters including Jim Crowley, heart specialist  at Galway University Hospital, former Galway hurling star, Ollie Canning, and cycling clubs across the country for a cycle to raise funds in support of those affected by heart disease and stroke. With restrictions easing, we ask that cyclists follow guidelines on social distancing and cycle their favourite local route this August long weekend in aid of Croí.

Prof. Jim Crowley says, “I’ll be taking on ‘My Summer Cycle for Croí’ this August long weekend. It’s a great event to raise much-needed funds for Croí as it supports people living with heart disease and stroke, especially during these difficult times. And it’s great to get out on the bike, bring the family and cycle in support of your own heart health!”

Registration is a €25 donation to Croí, and cyclists are encouraged to try and fundraise at least €1 for every kilometre cycled. All registrants receive a special Croí Summer Cycle neck snood!

“Bring your family, friends or team mates together for Croí’s Summer Cycle – all ages and cycling abilities are welcome to take part and help us raise much-needed funds to support our work in fighting heart disease and stroke,” says Christine Flanagan, Croí’s Director of Fundraising.

Croí is facing an unprecedented challenge – people living with heart disease and stroke are most at risk if affected by COVID-19 and they need Croí’s support services more than ever. Funds raised will directly support the Croí Heartlink West programme, which is a ‘free of charge’ support service for heart and stroke patients and their caregivers, providing direct access to the Croí specialist health team.

“Here at Croí, we rely on our own fundraising activities as we are not state-funded, and with the cancellation of so many of our events this year, we are appealing for support with this event. Last year we celebrated 25 years of the Croí cycle… this year is going to be different, but we ask that you still cycle for Croí – your distance, your route, your way!,” says Flanagan.

So put on your favourite cycling jersey and head off on your favourite route for a Summer Cycle in aid of Croí this August long weekend. You can share pictures of your cycle online by tagging Croí @croiheartstroke.

Learn more about the cycle and register now at www.croi.ie/mysummercycle.

Croí’s Summer Cycle is supported by Corrib Oil, Al Hayes Motors and Challenge Cycling Club.