- Croí will listen to over 1,000 hearts at free stethoscope checks across the country
- Croí calls on anyone over the age of 65 to ensure they are getting regular stethoscope checks
- Stethoscope checks are a key indicator of Heart Valve Disease but Ireland lags behind the EU average when it comes to regular checks
Ireland’s heart and stroke charity, Croí, has today launched Heart Valve Disease (HVD) Awareness Week. As part of HVD Awareness Week, Croí will be hosting four free stethoscope check events in Galway, Mayo, Limerick and Dublin. Croí expects to listen to over 1,000 hearts over the course of the week.
This marks an expansion from 2022 when Croí hosted one such event in Eyre Square in Galway. Croí listened to 300 shoppers’ hearts and a staggering 10% of those seen were referred to their GP for further tests. This was a worrying number given those 300 shoppers were seemingly healthy people who happened to take advantage of the free check.
The expansion of HVD Awareness Week in Ireland is clearly required. A previous survey compiled by the European Heart Health Survey shows that Ireland lags significantly behind its EU counterparts when it comes to the frequency of stethoscope checks.
The research showed that just 32% of Irish patients over the age of 60 received a stethoscope check each time they visited their GP, compared with 76% in France and 57% in Belgium, while 9% of those surveyed said they had never received a stethoscope check from their GP.
This is despite the fact that stethoscope testing is recognised as the key detector of HVD, the name given to any malfunction or abnormality of one or more the of heart’s four valves, affecting the flow of blood through the heart.
Associated with ageing, the condition is estimated to affect 13% of the population who are over the age of 75, with the risk of heart disease increases significantly after 65. Common symptoms include breathlessness, fatigue and dizziness, though in some cases there may be no visible symptoms.
Ireland’s ageing population is leading to an increased prevalence of HVD. It is estimated that across Europe the number of people living with HVD will double by 2040 and triple by 2060. HVD has been described as ‘the next cardiac epidemic’.
To mark international Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week, which runs from September 11 – 17, Croí, the Irish heart and stroke charity, is calling on people to ‘Listen to their Hearts’, and reminding those over 65 to ask their GPs for regular stethoscope checks:
Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Neil Johnson, CEO of Croí, said,
“There are many milestones associated with getting older – reaching retirement, getting to spend more time on hobbies and with family and friends, maybe having grandkids. But all of these are contingent on a healthy heart – that’s why Croí is calling on those over 65 to seek annual stethoscope checks as another important ageing milestone.
“To mark Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week, Croí is hosting free stethoscope checks in four pop-up locations around the country – Dublin, Mayo, Galway and Limerick. I would encourage anyone who is in the area to take five minutes out of their day to stop by and have a check – it could make all the difference to your long-term health.”
Ms Sarah Early, a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at St James’s Hospital and a clinical senior lecturer at Trinity College Dublin welcomed the campaign and highlighted the importance of early intervention:
“Awareness campaigns like this are incredibly important in increasing early detection of heart valve disease. As a condition, it is detectable and treatable, but as with all diseases, early intervention is critical. A stethoscope check is a non-invasive, simple check that everyone over the age of 65 should be requesting any time that they see their GP. During last year’s free stethoscope check event in Galway, 300 seemingly healthy people were examined while they were out shopping and 30 of them needed additional tests. This highlights the importance of everyone paying attention to their heart health, even if they don’t have any symptoms. It may turn out to be nothing, but it could save your life.”