Fuelling Your Croí Cycle

The countdown is on until the Croí Corrib Charity Cycle on June 12th! Fuelling for your cycle is of utmost importance so we have some tips from our Croí Dietitian, Aisling Harris, below.

Eating well for physical activity and sport can have many benefits including:

  • Allowing you to perform well in your chosen sport or activity;
  • Reducing the risk of injury and illness;
  • Ensuring the best recovery after exercise or a training programme.

A healthy diet for sport and exercise should contain plenty of starchy foods, plenty of fruit and vegetables, some protein foods and some dairy foods. It is also very important to stay hydrated.

Carbohydrates

The main role of carbohydrates is to provide energy.

When they are digested, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose to provide readily available energy for the body to use quickly and effectively. Carbohydrates are the most important form of fuel for exercise and sports activities. Starchy foods are an important source of carbohydrates in our diet. Starchy foods, especially high fibre varieties, provide a slower release of energy and take longer to digest so it’s a good idea to include some in every meal. Wholegrain varieties also provide fibre, which is important for digestive health, and a range of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, iron, calcium and folate. We store small amounts of carbohydrates as glycogen in our muscles but use this use up during exercise. Therefore, it is important to replenish your glycogen stores after your workout so that your levels are topped up for your next session. Try to have a source of carbohydrates with your main meals. Additionally, high carbohydrate snacks such as a slice of bread with jam, a cereal bar or a banana and yoghurt are good snacks to have before or during a long training session.

Good sources of carbohydrates in the diet include:

  • Wholegrain bread
  • Breakfast cereals and porridge oats
  • Pasta and noodles
  • Rice
  • Couscous
  • Potatoes (with skins) and other starchy vegetables, e.g. sweetcorn
  • Beans and pulses

Protein

Protein is also important for health and physical activity. The main role of protein in the body is for growth, repair and maintenance of body cells and tissues, such as muscle.

Different foods contain different amounts and different combinations of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot make itself and so are needed from the diet. The full range of essential amino acids needed by the body (high protein quality) is found in:

  • Animal sources – meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and yoghurt.
  • Plant sources – beans, pulses, soy, tofu, and plant-based meat alternatives
  • Most vegans get enough protein from their diets, but it is important to consume a variety of plant proteins to ensure enough essential amino acids are included.
  • Consuming a healthy, varied, diet containing nutrient-dense foods will ensure you get enough protein without the use of protein supplements or special high-protein eating strategies, even if your needs are a little higher. Try and spread your protein intake throughout the day.

Fat

Fat is an essential nutrient for the body but it is also a rich source of energy. Fats in foods typically contain a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids but choosing foods which contain higher amounts of unsaturated fat and less saturated fat is preferable. Most of us eat too much saturated fat so to cut back on intake limit foods such as:

  • Pastries, cakes and puddings
  • Chocolate and biscuits
  • Some savoury snacks
  • Cream, coconut cream and ice-cream
  • Butter, lard, ghee, suet, palm oil and coconut oil
  • Processed meats like sausages, ham, burgers and fatty cuts of meat
  • Fried foods including fried chips

Replacing saturated fat with some monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Good sources of these fats include vegetable oils such as olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils, avocados, nuts and seeds and oily fish, e.g. mackerel, salmon and sardines.

How to stay well hydrated

Sufficient fluid intake is essential for exercise and optimum recovery. Exercising causes the body to get warmer so the body tries to cool down by sweating. This causes the loss of water and salts through the skin.

The amount an individual sweats varies from person to person and depends on:

  • Intensity and duration – longer and higher intensity exercise can cause greater sweat loss
  • Environmental temperature – in hot, humid conditions sweat loss can increase
  • Clothing – the more clothing that is worn, the quicker you are likely to heat up which may cause greater sweat loss
  • Genetics – some people are just more likely to sweat than others

Generally, the more a person sweats, the more they will need to drink.

Small water losses are not harmful. However, dehydration can cause tiredness and hinder performance by reducing strength and aerobic capacity (especially in longer duration exercise), as well as having a negative effect on any further exercise sessions. Try and stay hydrated before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration – water is generally best but sports drinks can be useful in certain situations, particularly long exercise sessions or sessions where you will sweat a lot as these drinks will help replace electrolytes lost in sweat. Always practice your nutrition and hydration strategy during your training sessions as opposed to race day to see how your body adapts.

Content adapted from the British Nutrition Foundation

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.

Marie Dunican Is Managing To Live Well With Heart Failure

Let’s focus on living, because even with heart failure, you can still be you. Don’t let heart failure stop you. #HeartFailureAwareness

Like us all, Marie Dunican has had memorable birthdays. However, her most recent one proved to be more memorable than most, but for all the wrong reasons as she was diagnosed with heart failure. Despite this setback, Marie is determined to get her life back, get back to work and start living a normal life once again.

“I was diagnosed for my 54th birthday! I was often tired however I put that down to my job, but on the day it happened, I knew I wasn’t right. I wasn’t feeling great at 10pm that night and I said, ‘I need to go to hospital.’ I knew myself I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t climb the stairs, I got really sick and my lungs were full of fluid.”

Once admitted to hospital, Marie was diagnosed and treated for heart failure. With this diagnosis, Marie was able to start adjusting her lifestyle to better manage her condition. She monitors her symptoms on a daily basis to ensure that her condition is kept in check. “I weigh myself every day and I know by my weight if it goes up in a short space of time that the fluid is building up in my lungs and I need to contact the doctor immediately.”

A hiker by nature, Marie tries to get out and exercise regularly, particularly since her diagnosis. “I would be good for climbing hills. I would be fit and I get on the bike as often as I can.” Once she was discharged from hospital, Marie contacted Croí for some support and advice on how she should manage and live with her condition.

“I was really stressed the day I rang Croí. I rang for advice and to see how I can manage this. When I spoke to the nurse in Croí, she reassured me that help is available and gave me the support and information I needed.”

Heart failure can affect different people in different ways. It is estimated that 1 in 5 people are at risk of heart failure and it is the most frequent cause of hospitalisation in people over the age of 65.

Heart Failure Awareness week runs from Oct 4th – 10th. For more information, click here.

Mary Hoare is all set for her latest challenge

Age is but a number for Mary Hoare. The 80 year old, who lives in Cork, has signed up for Croí’s Virtual 5km Night Run which takes place on Friday October 8. This is Mary’s second time taking part as she also did the 5km event last year.

Mary was keen to support Croí and the work they do as she has had family members suffer cardiac problems in past. In February 2020, Mary’s son John suffered a heart attack while getting into his car. It was only due to the good fortune of a trained medic who was passing the scene that John was immediately attended to and made a full recovery after a number of months of care. Mary said, “John was very young and fit, then one morning he suffered a heart attack getting into his card and it was a very scary time for him but thankfully he is now fully recovered.”

The 5km distance will not be a problem for Mary as she recently completed both the Women’s Mini Marathon and the Cork Mini Marathon on the same day! The two events had a combined distance of 16km. While earlier this summer she completed 100 Miles in a Month for the Mater Hospital. Mary is also a regular at her local park run in Cork which have recently returned, “They are a great way to get you up and moving, some Saturdays you might not feel like it but once you come back you feel great that you did it.”

Ahead of International Day of Older Persons on October 1st Mary is very keen to encourage people to get up and stay active, “Exercise is a great way to keep active and keep moving, it is also great from a social side. Some older people stay in and don’t move, but I was always active. I am in walking group that meets every Monday and it is great to get out and meet up with people and get some exercise.”

Mary is looking forward to tackling the Croí Virtual Night Run on Friday, October 8th. Join with your family, friends or colleagues to run, walk or jog the 5km distance in aid of Croí.

The power of cycling: Pat Horan, 70, shares his recovery story

This week is Men’s Health Week. Croí cyclist, Pat Horan, shares his story to help raise awareness and support others.

Pat Horan, from Aglish in North Tipperary, credits his daily hour of cycling for keeping him fit and healthy at 70 years of age. Well known as the owner of Pat Horan Motors, a family run business with motorhomes and campers for sale, Pat is gearing up for the Croí Corrib Cycle, in aid of a charity that is very close to his heart.

In 2017, while Pat was out for his daily cycle and only one mile from home, he lost all energy and knew something wasn’t right. He didn’t have the typical heart attack symptoms of chest pain, but he knew he needed to get to the doctor right away. Pat was rushed to Limerick where he received stents in his heart, and then was referred to Dublin for a triple heart bypass.

Pat went to great lengths to reduce his risk of heart disease, even cutting out butter, sugar and salt from his diet over 25 years ago, but Pat’s family history was something that could not be modified. His advice for people recovering from heart surgery is to get out and get active: “You will be sore, but get out and go for a walk. Fresh air is amazing… do what you can and drink plenty of water,” says Horan.

Pat credits cycling and his fitness level for keeping him alive. “I go at my own pace, I like cycling on my own as there is no pressure. I head off at 8am in the morning and it sets me up for the day,” says Horan.

Pat on his bike

Pat is a motor sport enthusiast, and is looking forward to the restrictions being lifted so he can travel to Europe again to compete in the rallies with his youngest daughter, Noelle, his co-pilot. They have been invited to the Goodwood Festival of Speed for the last number of years and also have taken part in the Legendary Eifel Rally Festival.

Pat is looking forward to a great day out at the Croí Corrib Cycle on Sunday, July 11th. Learn more and register now at croi.ie/cycle. Funds raised support Croí’s work in fighting heart disease and stroke.