Four Croí Health Team members with their specialty

Power your Heart, Power your Life – Top Tips from the Croí Health Team

Did you know, up to 80% of heart disease and stroke can be prevented? Conditions like atrial fibrillation and hypertension – all forms of heart disease – are among the most common causes of health problems and death in Ireland. Heart disease and stroke are strongly linked to certain risk factors. Some risk factors are out of our control, like our family history and age. However, there are many risk factors that we can control, including blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, diabetes control, physical inactivity, overweight or obesity, and stress. You can reduce your risk of experiencing heart disease or stroke by making changes that improve your risk factors, like exercising, eating a heart healthy diet and learning about your individual risk factors.

Own your heart health!

Headshot of Maeve
Maeve Frawley – Heartlink West Nurse

As we age, so does our cardiovascular system. It is never too early or late to take action on our heart health! But it becomes particularly important as we approach mid-life. The number 1 Croí mantra when it comes to owning your heart health is to know your numbers in relation to those all important risk factors. By being aware of your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, blood glucose control if you are living with diabetes, and the recommended targets for these factors; you will know when it is time to take action.

Early detection and engagement with treatment is vital for getting on top of things. Lifestyle changes, medications and other treatments can have life changing and lifesaving impacts!

Maeve’s Top Tips:

  1. Know your numbers: own your heart health by getting informed.
  2. Check it: visit your GP annually to find out about your risk factors and how you can stay on top of them.
  3. If you heart says so, just go: the signs of a heart attack include chest discomfort, discomfort in other areas like the arms, neck or jaw, shortness of breath, and other signs like nausea. Never take the risk of waiting or delaying if you think you, or someone around you is having a heart attack. Call 999 or 112 immediately.

The way to our hearts is through our stomachs!

Aisling Harris – Cardiac and Weight Management Dietitian

What we eat has a big impact on our heart health and risk of cardiovascular disease. For example, salt is the biggest contributor to raised blood pressure. 80% of the salt we eat is already found in foods. We should aim to have no more than 5g of salt per day. To give you an idea of how quickly salt intake can add up, 2 slices of sliced pan bread contains about 1g of salt – 20% of the recommended intake!

Alcohol also has a significant impact on blood pressure. The weekly guidelines for low risk alcohol intake are no more than 17 units per week for a man and 11 for a women. It also suggests to have at least 2 alcohol free days per week.

On a more positive note, there are lots of foods that can benefit our hearts. For example, porridge oats as well as beans, lentils, legumes and pulses can help lower cholesterol. Fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants that help protect the lining of our blood vessels. Oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado all contain heart healthy fats. Fibre, something 80% of us don’t eat enough of, plays a big role in managing cholesterol, balancing blood sugars and regulating appetite. Fibre is found in wholegrain bread and cereals, porridge, wholegrain rice and pasta, potato skins, fruits, vegetables, legumes, pulses, nuts and seeds.

Aisling’s Top Tips:

  1. Know your food: read food labels to help you choose foods low in saturated fat and salt.
  2. The basics: aim for 7 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, the more variety the better.
  3. Go green: try to reduce your consumption of red meat (to 2 times per week) and avoid processed meats.
  4. Change it up: include fish twice per week, one of which should be an oily fish and try to have a meat free day once per week – experiment with recipes that use beans, lentils or chickpeas instead of meat.

Move your body, mind your heart!

Caroline Costello – Physical Activity Specialist

Being physically active is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your health. Regular exercise has many important health benefits such as improved cardiovascular fitness, blood pressure and blood sugar control. Exercise improves flexibility, balance and coordination; it’s a great stress buster and is critical in maintaining a healthy weight. Think about the impact of these benefits on your busy daily life, whether you are taking care of children or other family members, at work or on the golf course!

The aim is to achieve at least 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity activity, five days a week (or 150 minutes a week). That might sound like a lot, but remember you will still have 23 ½ hours left in your day to do everything else!

Caroline’s Top Tips:

  1. Start small: if 150 minutes of physical activity a week seems like a lot, break it down into ten minute sessions throughout the day and build up from there.
  2. Create a routine: plan a time to do some physical activity that fits in with the rest of your day.
  3. Variety is the spice of life: make a list of enjoyable activities, such as dancing and yoga, and place them in a jar. Pick a different activity to do each week to keep things interesting.
  4. Sit less, move more: remember, everyday activities count, so look out for opportunities to be active during the day. For example, can you take a phone call standing up?

Getting from knowing to doing!

Dr. Lisa Hynes – Head of Health Programmes & Health Psychologist

Now that you know the Croí team’s top tips for charging up your heart health, it will be easy to get exercising, make those diet changes and get that blood pressure checked, right? Probably not! Taking action and making changes can be really hard. It is a lot more than just knowing what is good for us! Here is how you can help yourself make that leap from knowing to doing.

Lisa’s Top Tips:

  1. Set SMART goals: start with one thing you would really like to change, and you think you can change. Make this goal Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and put a Timeline on it – By Christmas, I will be walking 10,000 steps a day, which I will track using a pedometer.
  2. Action plan for success: make your goal a reality by putting a clear plan in place – I’ll increase my steps from my current level by 500 every week, walking around the local pitch which is well lit. I enjoy walking so I know I can do this, and I will ask my neighbour to join me to help me stick to the plan!
  3. Go easy on yourself: there will be times when life gets in the way of your well laid plans. A great way to help us make a change is to think about and remove barriers. If you know that you going to put off your walk on a rainy evening, invest in some rain gear or plan an indoor activity for those days. If you miss a day, try not to be too hard on yourself. Instead think about how to get back on the horse tomorrow.
  4. Stressed is desserts spelled backwards: busy and stressful times in our lives often bring a halt to our health and self-care routines and plans. Try to plan ahead to keep up those exercise and healthy eating plans during busy times, like the back to school transition or holiday times, and notice opportunities to up your stress management game if needed – going to bed earlier, sharing worries with a friend, taking some quiet time for yourself, trying meditation – there are lots of ways we can give ourselves the head space to allow us to make heart healthy choices.

To find out more about risk factors for heart disease and stroke and taking care of your heart health, visit www.croi.ie or email healthteam@croi.ie. Maeve, our Heartlink West nurse can be contacted from 9-5 Monday to Friday on 091-544310 if you would like some information or support.

Roscommon Farmers – Take Control of Your Heart Health with Croí

Croí, the heart and stroke charity, invites Roscommon Farmers to a special World Heart Day webinar on Thursday, September 30th from 7-8pm using Zoom. The webinar will focus on how you can reduce your risk factors for heart disease and stroke, including cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, stress and more. Following the webinar, registrants will have the opportunity to apply to join a free 8-week lifestyle change programme with the Croí Health Team. Register now at www.croi.ie/roscommonfarmers.

The life of a farmer is often busy, active and unpredictable, and we can see the impact of this demanding lifestyle on farmers’ risk for developing heart disease and stroke. Startlingly, almost 50% of Irish farmers have high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and 86% are overweight or are living with obesity. Farmers have historically been seen as a physically active group, but daily “sitting time” for farmers can be as high as 8+ hours.

The good news is that with small lifestyle changes to things like eating habits and exercise, life-changing improvements can be made, reducing your risk for heart disease and stroke. “Up to 80% of heart disease can be prevented by modifying risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking. The more risk factors you have, the more likely it is that you will develop heart disease and stroke. We want you to focus on the risk factors you can change, because even if you have a family history, there is a lot you can do to reduce your risk,” says Dr. Lisa Hynes.

Webinar speakers include Dr. Lisa Hynes, Health Psychologist and Head of Health Programmes at Croí; Aisling Harris, Cardiac and Weight Management Dietitian; and Zoe McCrudden, Cardiovascular Nurse Specialist. All participants will receive a free e-copy of Croí’s new Healthy Living Workbook that will help guide them in making the changes that are right for them.

Register now and submit your questions for the experts at www.croi.ie/roscommonfarmers, or call Croí on 091-544310. Don’t miss this special event – know your risk of developing heart disease or stroke and make heart healthy changes!

In addition, Croí has developed special resources to support Roscommon farmers on their journey to better heart health. Check out our special webpage at www.croi.ie/roscommonfarmers and learn how you can reduce your risk of developing heart disease or stroke.

Croí joins with Midwest radio to highlight free blood pressure checks in September

Pictured is Midwest radio commentator Michael D McAndrew ‘checking’ the blood pressure of match analyst Martin Carney ahead of the All-Ireland Final in Croke Park on Saturday, September 11th. Pic Conor McKeown

The Croí Third Age Mayo project and Midwest radio’s GAA commentators Michael D McAndrew and Martin Carney are joining forces to highlight the fact that free blood pressure checks are available in numerous pharmacies across Mayo to people over 55 years of age who have not had their blood pressure checked in the past year.

Croí is partnering with a number of pharmacies across Mayo throughout September offering free blood pressure checks as part of the Croí Third Age Mayo project. This initiative is specifically designed to promote and support the cardiovascular health and well-being of the over 55 population in county Mayo.

Members of the public found to have high blood pressure will be offered advice and information, as well as the opportunity to take part in a free blood pressure management programme, delivered by the Croí multi-disciplinary health team.

Log on to www.croi.ie/third-age-mayo-bp for the full list of participating pharmacies in Mayo.

Croí & Mayo Pharmacies launch free blood pressure checks for September

Own it, Check it, Sort it!

The Croí Third Age Mayo project, which aims to promote healthy cardiovascular ageing, is delighted to partner with local pharmacies across Mayo for the month of September to offer free blood pressure checks to people over 55 years of age who have not had their blood pressure checked in the past year.

High blood pressure (hypertension) can put a strain on your arteries and organs, which can increase your risk of developing serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes. Members of the public found to have high blood pressure will be offered advice and information, as well as the opportunity to take part in a free blood pressure management programme, delivered by the Croí multi-disciplinary health team.

“If you’re over the age of 55, you should have your blood pressure checked once a year. A blood pressure test is a simple way of checking if your blood pressure is too high. If you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it and reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke,” says Dr. Lisa Hynes, Croí Head of Health Programmes.

People over 55 years of age interested in a free blood pressure check can simply contact one of the participating pharmacies. See croi.ie/third-age-mayo-bp to learn more.

The pharmacies participating in the pilot programme are:

  • Achill – Molloy’s
  • Balla – Life Pharmacy
  • Ballaghaderreen – Molloy’s
  • Ballina – Molloy’s Garden St., Molloy’s Bunree Rd., McKane’s, Kilroy’s
  • Ballinrobe – Hynes
  • Ballyhaunis – Curley’s
  • Bangor Erris – Lavelle’s
  • Belmullet – Lavelle’s, McCormack’s
  • Castlebar – MacAuliffe’s, O’Donnell’s, Staunton’s, Treacy’s
  • Charlestown – Colleran’s
  • Claremorris – Davey’s
  • Crossmolina – Molloy’s, Quinn’s
  • Foxford – Heneghans
  • Kilkelly – Life Pharmacy
  • Killala – Lavelle’s
  • Kiltimagh – Heneghans
  • Knock – Life Pharmacy
  • Louisburgh – Staunton’s
  • Swinford – O’Connell’s
  • Westport – Treacy’s, McVann’s, O’Donnell’s, O’Connell’s, Lally’s.

Advice for people managing High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) at home

It is not clear why people with high blood pressure are at a higher risk of developing complications if they contract COVID-19, so it is important to follow all the recommended advice on staying safe and take any heart medication your doctor has prescribed.

You have high blood pressure when your blood pressure readings are more than 140 over 90 consistently over several readings. When on treatment for high blood pressure the target for most people is to have a blood pressure below 130/80mmHg particularly if you have had a cardiac event or stroke; have other risk factors; or have diabetes.

High blood pressure is very common in Ireland and by taking control of your blood pressure you can make a positive step towards reducing your overall risk of having a heart attack or stroke. You can do this following the medical advice you are given by your doctor, having regular check-ups, taking your medication as prescribed and making positive lifestyle changes.

Many people also like to monitor their blood pressure themselves using a home blood pressure monitor. The British & Irish Hypertension Society publishes the only independent, validated blood pressure monitors for home use, not governed by commercial interest. For a full list of validated blood pressure monitors, click here, or here is Croí’s short-list of recommended blood pressure monitors:

  • A&D UA-705: Upper Arm
  • A&D UA-704: Upper Arm
  • Omron M2 Compact (HEM-7102-E): Upper Arm
  • Omron M2 Basic (HEM-7116-E) (Derivative of M3-I (HEM-7051-E)): Upper Arm
  • Omron M7 (HEM-780-E): Upper Arm

The following video outlines how to measure your blood pressure using a validated monitor to ensure it is recorded accurately.

For more information on High Blood Pressure, click here.

Croí Marks World Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) Day in Mayo

The Croí Third Age Mayo project, which aims to promote healthy cardiovascular ageing, will mark World Hypertension Day (May 17) with a free public webinar with expert speakers discussing how participants can manage their high blood pressure. The webinar will take place lunchtime on Thursday, May 20 from 1-2 pm with expert speakers including, Prof Bill McEvoy, Consultant Cardiologist, University Hospital Galway; Dr Barry McDonnell, Cardiovascular Physiologist, Cardiff Metropolitan University; and Dr Gerry Molloy, Health Psychologist, NUI Galway. Register for free here.

In a separate initiative from May 17, Croí Third Age Mayo will partner with ten local pharmacies as part of a blood pressure measurement pilot programme. This initiative will see free blood pressure checks offered throughout the week to people over 55 years of age who have not had their blood pressure checked in the past year. Members of the public found to have high blood pressure will be offered advice and information, as well as the opportunity to take part in a free blood pressure management programme, delivered by the Croí multi-disciplinary health team.

The pharmacies participating in the pilot programme are Molloy’s Pharmacy in BallinaCrossmolina, Ballaghaderreen and Achill, Treacy’s Pharmacy in Castlebar, Westport and Ballinrobe, and O’Donnell’s Pharmacy and McVann’s Pharmacy in Westport.

People over 55 years of age interested in a free blood pressure check can simply contact one of the participating pharmacies to book an appointment, which are subject to availability. Further information on Croí Third Age Mayo, and this pilot programme, can be found at croi.ie/third-age-mayo-bp. The blood pressure measurement programme will expand to include more pharmacies in the county with further checks to be held later in the year.

High Rates of High BP

Mayo is among the counties in Ireland with the highest proportion of people over 55 years of age, having almost a third of the population in this age category. Between 30-40% of people in Ireland are unaware that they have high blood pressure. Ireland has one of the highest rates of high blood pressure internationally, but among the lowest levels of diagnosis, treatment and control of the condition.

For Croí Chief Executive, Neil Johnson, this initiative marks the beginning of a county-wide effort to improve our cardiovascular health: “One of the many impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been reduced access to routine health checks, with implications for delayed detection and treatment of cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure. We are delighted therefore to announce this pilot initiative marking World Hypertension Day. Starting with a pilot among these ten pharmacies, our aim is to then spread the blood pressure message far and wide across the county of Mayo in the coming months with other blood pressure management events.”

Own it. Check it. Sort it.

Five Things You Should Know in Taking Control of Your Blood Pressure.

  1. Be informed. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, happens when the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels is too high. Left untreated, it can significantly increase the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
  2. Get checked out. Known as a silent killer, high blood pressure usually has no symptoms. So, the only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked out.
  3. Know your pressure. If over 55 years, you should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. The recommended target level for blood pressure is <140/90 mmHg, however, if you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or have previously had a stroke, you may be prescribed a lower target.
  4. Minimise the risks. There are steps you can take to lower blood pressure, by maintaining a healthy weight and becoming more physically active, stopping smoking, avoiding added salt, drinking alcohol in moderation, increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables, and learning ways to cope with stress.
  5. You can be treated. If lifestyle measures on their own are not effective in keeping your blood pressure under control, then you may need to take prescribed medications in addition. These are usually for the rest of your life.

FREE Heart Health Checks in Ballina for 65+ year olds

The Key to Healthy Ageing is a Healthy Heart says Croí – Announcing FREE Heart Health Checks for 65+ year olds

Date: Wednesday, November 13th
Location: Great National Hotel, Ballina, Co. Mayo

The key to healthy ageing is a healthy heart. Understandably, ageing naturally causes changes in the heart and blood vessels and these age-related changes often increase your risk of heart disease or stroke. People aged 65+ are much more likely than younger people to develop heart problems, but many of these conditions, if detected and treated early, can be managed so as to significantly reduce their impact on health and longevity.

In today’s world, thanks to medical and technological innovation, we are living longer. By the year 2050, 1 in 5 people worldwide will be over the age of 60 years of age. In fact, for the first time in human history we are close to a time when across the world there will be more people over the age of 60 than under the age of 15. The Croí Third Age Programme is focused on our increasingly ageing society and the aim is to ensure that as we live longer we also maintain our health and quality of life. The greatest barrier to this is age-related cardiovascular diseases. That’s why on June 19th, local heart and stroke charity, Croí, is offering free heart health checks at the Croí Heart & Stroke Centre in Newcastle, Galway.

So, if you are over the age of 65Not attending a cardiologist, and have Not had a heart health check in the past 6 months (e.g., blood pressure check / your heart listened to), then Croí invites you to this special FREE heart health check.

Places are limited and you must register in advance.
Time slots are available from 10.00am – 5.00pm.

Reserve your space now by calling Croí on 091-544310.

 

Reserve your space now by calling Croí on 091-544310.

FREE High Blood Pressure Check

Do you or someone you know have high blood pressure or are you taking medication to manage blood pressure? If so, you are invited to a FREE Blood Pressure Check and Public Talk by heart expert Dr. Faisal Sharif on Wednesday, July 10th in the Croí Heart & Stroke Centre, Newcastle, Galway.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart problems and stroke. Because there are no obvious symptoms of high blood pressure, very often people assume it’s nothing to worry about. However, high blood pressure needs to be treated and managed so as to avoid a serious heart event or catastrophic stroke.

The Clinical Research Facility, Galway (CRFG), have teamed up with local Heart & Stroke Charity, Croí and the Department of Cardiology, GUH to provide FREE Blood Pressure Checks for those with known high blood pressure or those taking medications to manage their blood pressure. In addition, there is an opportunity to attend a talk by an expert on blood pressure management and treatment, and the opportunity to be involved in clinical trials.

Places are limited – call Croí now on 091-544310 to book your free appointment.

A collaborative initiative by the Clinical Research Facility, Galway (CRFG), supported by Croí, the Department of Cardiology, GUH; and the National University of Ireland, Galway – Supporting research and public education.

Cajun Salmon Salad

Salmon and other oily fish such as mackerel, herring, trout and sardines are a great source of polyunsaturated fats which can help lower bad (LDL) cholesterol. You should try to include some oily fish in your diet at least once or twice a week. This recipe for Cajun Salmon Salad is a quick and easy lunch or dinner option!

 

 

 

Ingredients – Serves 1:

  • 1 salmon fillet
  • Cajun spice
  • Handful Mixed leaves
  • Handful Green beans
  • 4-5 Asparagus spears
  • ¼ Avocado
  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 baby potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon chopped parsley

 

  • Sprinkle some Cajun spice onto the salmon fillet and rub in.
  • Wrap the salmon in tinfoil and bake in the oven at 180C for about 12-15minutes or until cooked.
  • Boil the baby potatoes. When cooked, drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and chopped parsley.
  • Boil the green beans and asparagus for a few minutes until cooked.
  • Chop the avocado and tomato into bite size pieces.
  • Mix your salad ingredients together and place your cooked salmon fillet on top.

 

Aisling Harris

Croí Cardiac and Weight Management Dietitian 

Chickpea, Avocado and Mango Salad

This is a lovely fruit summer salad, perfect for those hot summer afternoons or evenings. Avocados and nuts are a good source of monounsaturated fats which can help to increase levels of our good cholesterol (HDL). Chickpeas are a good source of soluble fibre which can help lower levels of our bad cholesterol (LDL). Too much bad cholesterol and not enough good cholesterol can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

 

Ingredients – Serves 2:

  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained
  • A few basil leaves
  • 1 dessertspoon olive oil
  • Sea Salt
  • 2 Handfuls mixed leaves
  • ½ Avocado
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • ½ Mango
  • 1 Grilled Red Pepper
  • Dessertspoon of toasted nuts and seeds (dry fry some cracked hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds on a frying pan until lightly toasted).

In a bowl, mix together the chickpeas, olive oil, chopped basil leaves and a light sprinkle of sea salt.

Chop the avocado, mango and grilled red pepper into bite-sized chunks.

Assemble all the ingredients together and top with the toasted nuts and seeds.

 

Aisling Harris

Croí Cardiac and Weight Management Dietitian