International Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week – Croí to Host “Listen to Your Heart” Webinar

“It’s been described as the next cardiac epidemic…”

With One in Eight Over 75 Years Suffering from Heart Valve Disease, People Urged to Have an Annual Stethoscope Check

See croi.ie/valveweek for information on heart valve disease and to register for the upcoming webinar.

Croí, the Irish heart and stroke charity, is calling on all adults over the age of 65 years to ask their doctor for an annual stethoscope check to ensure early detection and timely treatment of heart valve disease.

Heart valve disease – where valves in the heart are damaged or not working properly – is common, serious, but treatable. Regular checks for a heart murmur using a stethoscope are a vital tool in diagnosing the disease.

The call comes ahead of International Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week (September 13-19), an initiative of the Global Heart Hub, an international alliance of heart patient organisations from around the world, and which is led in Ireland by Croí.

Statistics show that one in eight people (13 per cent) over the age of 75 are thought to suffer from moderate to severe heart valve disease which can lead to premature death if left untreated.

Marking the week, Croí is to host a webinar on heart valve disease for members of the public on Thursday, September 16 from 7-8pm.

The “Listen to Your Heart” webinar will feature contributions from interventional cardiologist, Dr Samer Arnous, and a person living with heart valve disease. The webinar will highlight the signs and symptoms of heart valve disease and how it is detected and treated. Members of the public will have the opportunity to put their questions to Dr Arnous. People interested in registering for the webinar can do so at www.croi.ie/valveweek.

Needs to Change

For Neil Johnson, CEO of Croí, an annual stethoscope check needs to become a matter of routine for everyone over 65 years:
“As more and more of us live longer, heart valve disease is increasingly an issue that we may need to face. Indeed, it’s been described as the next cardiac epidemic. Sometimes we may put down to old age not being able to do certain things as well as we used to. However, the symptoms of heart valve disease can be masked by the natural signs of ageing. Too often, it goes unnoticed and undiagnosed as we don’t realise that there may be something more troubling going on.

“As we age, especially from 65 years onwards, if you are finding that small everyday tasks like going up the stairs, mowing the grass, or catching a bus, are leaving you feeling breathless or dizzy, you may need to get checked out by your GP. Indeed, as symptoms are not always present, as a matter of good heart health routine, I would encourage anyone over 65 years to have an annual stethoscope check. Unfortunately, we know from research that most people over 65 years in Ireland are not having regular stethoscope checks when they attend their GP. That needs to change. When it comes to heart valve disease, early detection and timely treatment is vital not only in living a longer life, but a life which you can enjoy to the full.”

Heart Valve Disease – Your Questions Answered

  1. What is heart valve disease? There are four valves in the heart – the pulmonary valve, the tricuspid valve, the mitral valve and the aortic valve – and these valves regulate blood flow. Heart valve disease occurs when these valves become damaged, narrowed or stiffened, effecting blood flow in the heart.
  2. How serious is it? Heart valve disease can cause heart rhythm problems, heart failure, blood clots, stroke and even death. Up to half of symptomatic patients with severe aortic stenosis – where the aortic valve is damaged or stiffened – die within two years of developing symptoms if not treated.1, 2
  3. What causes it? There are different reasons as to why heart valve disease might arise. Some people are born with a heart abnormality or it may be due to ageing. It can be the result of a previous infection, such as rheumatic fever or endocarditis. It can also arise due to coronary heart disease or a heart attack, or due to cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle.
  4. How common is it? 13% of people over the age of 75 are thought to be living with heart valve disease3, and, based on studies in other populations, that number is estimated to double by 2040 and triple by 20604 due to the ageing population.
  5. What are the symptoms? Symptoms can include chest tightness or pain, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats, dizziness, fainting, swelling of the ankles and feet, fatigue and reduced physical activity. However, some people with heart valve disease will experience no symptoms for many years.
  6. How do you check for it? Everyone over the age of 65 years should have their heart listened to with a stethoscope at least once a year. Anyone with suspected heart valve disease should be referred for an echocardiogram to confirm the diagnosis.
  7. How is it treated? Lifestyle changes and medicines are often prescribed to treat symptoms. However, people may need to have a heart procedure to repair or replace the valve.

For more information on International Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week, visit www.croi.ie/valveweek. To keep up-to-date on developments for Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week in Ireland, follow Croí on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @croiheartstroke, or search for the hashtags #ListenToYourHeart #ValveWeek21.

Listen to your Heart – Croí Webinar on Heart Valve Disease

Join Croí for a free Heart Valve Disease webinar on Thursday, September 16th from 7-8pm.

As we get older, the valves in our heart can become diseased or damaged. Heart valve disease is common, serious, but treatable. Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week is taking place from September 13th-19th, and Croí want to raise awareness about the common symptoms of heart valve disease and encourage the public to listen to their heart!

Register for our special Heart Valve Disease webinar here!

The “Listen to Your Heart” webinar will feature contributions from interventional cardiologist, Dr Samer Arnous, and James Penny, who is living with heart valve disease. MC on the evening will be Lia Hynes, Journalist with the Irish Independent, author and podcast host. The webinar will highlight the signs and symptoms of heart valve disease and how it is detected and treated. Members of the public will have the opportunity to put their questions to Dr Arnous.

  • When: Thursday, September 16th, 2021
  • Time: 7-8pm
  • Location: Online over Zoom
  • Price: FREE

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 adds its Voice to Global Call to Heart Valve Patients

Among those most impacted by COVID-19 are individuals living with heart disease or with specific heart conditions such as heart valve disease.

“People with underlying heart disease or with certain heart conditions such as heart valve disease are among the most impacted by the coronavirus because of factors outside of their control, but also due to some things under their control,” says Croí CEO Neil Johnson, who has joined a global call for heart valve disease patients and their carers to take as much control as possible of their heart health during this global pandemic.

The global COVID-19 crisis has put an enormous strain on health systems which face the battle of limiting the spread of coronavirus, while at the same time providing the treatment and care that will save lives. As a result of this, healthcare systems across the world are having to change the way they work and how they prioritise, impacting patients presenting with many conditions, including heart valve disease.

The Global Heart Hub, an umbrella organisation for heart patient organisations, is advising those living with heart valve disease and other heart problems that while there may be disruption and delays to appointments and treatments, urgent treatment for conditions such as heart valve disease still needs to be undertaken.

“Many of the indicators that suggest a patient requires early or urgent intervention are symptom driven, so it is crucial that patients monitor their symptoms and report any deterioration to their nurse, doctor or heart specialist,” says Wil Woan, chair of the Global Heart Hub Heart Valve Disease Patient Council. The Global Heart Hub’s Heart Valve Disease Patient Council, of which Croí is an affiliate, has resources to help patients track their symptoms and he is encouraging patients and their carers to use them (www.globalhearthub.org).

Referring to factors under a patients control, Croí has added its voice to the global call in response to the concerning trend of some heart patients with severe symptoms or severe disease avoiding hospitals, not attending appointments or not contacting the emergency services on time for fear of contracting COVID-19. Croí’s Neil Johnson says: “By not seeking or receiving urgent treatment, these patients may be putting their lives at greater risk. We urge these patients to monitor their symptoms closely and report any deterioration. We are aware that this is a worrying period for patients across the world whose concerns about COVID-19 and potential isolation from loved ones is hampering their willingness to seek appropriate medical advice and treatment.”

Locally, Croí, a founding member of the Global Heart Hub, is providing support to patients and their carers through this challenging time. The Croí health team is available by phone Monday to Friday to provide information and support to those living with heart disease, stroke and obesity.

The Global Heart Hub is the umbrella organisation for heart patient organisations across the world and one of its core objectives is to create partnerships, share information and to leverage the power of the patient voice to deliver the best outcomes for all patients across the world. In the case of heart valve disease, where severe disease requires treatment, the Global Heart Hub is calling on healthcare systems and physicians to ensure that those who need urgent treatment still receive it, even in these challenging times.

“It is important that, together, we make clear that when the COVID-19 crisis relents, heart valve disease patients around the world will need and should receive treatment. Cancelled or delayed heart valve surgeries or interventions will need to be prioritised because we know that early intervention is optimal in returning patients to a good quality of life,” Woan, Global Heart Hub.

Click below to download the new heart valve disease Symptom Tracker resource.

Heart Valve Disease Week at Croí!

It was a busy time for Croí this European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week!

Team Croí were out and about in the West of Ireland with our Heart Valve Disease stand, conducting surveys on heart valve disease awareness amongst the public and providing information on the risks, diagnosis and treatment of heart valve disease. Over 300 surveys were collected which will go on to inform our work and awareness of heart valve disease in Ireland. We also identified several new and engaged patients who will join our heart valve disease patient advocates.

The burden of heart valve disease is rising as a consequence of our ageing population and increased life expectancy. About 1 in 40 adults in the general population are affected and this rises to over 1 in 10 in those over the age of 75 years. This means that heart valve disease is as common as heart failure, yet this is not widely appreciated. The goal of European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week is to raise awareness on the prominence of heart valve disease and to encourage people to get checked for symptoms of it.

Visit Croí’s information page to learn more about heart valve disease.

Croí’s Boost to Medical Training at NUI Galway

The use of a stethoscope remains a key step in detecting heart problems, especially heart murmurs and Heart Valve Disease. Local heart & stroke charity Croí is leading the way nationally in raising awareness of Heart Valve Disease as part of ‘European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week’ which takes place from September 16th – 22nd.

To mark the 2019 awareness week, Croí is presenting the School of Medicine, NUI Galway, with the latest technology for teaching the skills of stethoscope examination.

Pictured right, at the presentation by Croí of a SAM high fidelity cardiorespiratory auscultation simulator to the School of Medicine were, from left: Mr. Mike Smith, Clinical Skills and Simulation Technician; Prof. Gerard Flaherty, Programme Director for Undergraduate Medicine and the MSc in Preventive Cardiology; Mr. Neil Johnson, CEO of Croí; and Mr. Kevin O’Reilly, Chairperson of the Croí Board.

Image credit: Joe Shaughnessy

Croí’s Boost to Medical Training at NUI Galway (2)

The Story Of My Heart

By Pearl O’Kennedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank God, my heart is good.”

Pearl

Pearl O'Kennedy

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

Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week

Heart valve disease is becoming more common as a consequence of our ageing population and increased life expectancy. About 1 in 40 adults in the general population are affected and this rises to over 1 in 10 in those over the age of 75 years. This means that heart valve disease is as common as heart failure, yet this is not widely appreciated.

From September 16th – 22nd 2019, Croí will be taking part in European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week. This week aims to raise awareness and improve the diagnosis, treatment and management of heart valve disease in Europe.

#HeartValveWeek19

Heart Valve Week events:

Our ‘Street doc’ will be out in the West of Ireland for #HeartValveWeek19 with an information booth on heart valve disease! Come say hello and learn more about heart valve disease at the following locations:

    • Monday, September 16th from 11 – 3pm: Eyre Square Centre, Galway
    • Tuesday, September 17th from 11 – 3pm: Supervalu, Castlebar
    • Wednesday, September 18th from 11 – 3pm: Molloys Pharmacy Harrisson Centre, Roscommon
    • Friday, September 20th from 11 – 3pm, Ballinasloe Credit Union, Galway

 

To learn more about heart valve disease, click here.

Heart Valve Disease European Alliance Announces Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week

Following the success of the first ever European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day in 2018, members of the European Heart Valve Disease Alliance, met in Paris this year and agreed that the event would be better represented over the course of a week in 2019. The Alliance, made up of patient organisations from France, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Ireland and the UK, chose the third week of September as the date for the European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week.

“It has been a pleasure hosting the meeting for the Heart Valve Disease European Alliance here in Paris and we have made great strides with our plans for this year’s awareness event,” said Phillipe Thebault, President of Alliance du Coeur. “Holding it over a week will allow for more opportunities to spread our message about the need for more awareness of heart valve disease across Europe.”

The week will focus on The Power of Positive ageing with key messaging around the four As:

  • Awareness: Call upon governments, scientific societies and industry to collaborate with patient organisations to run national campaigns to raise awareness of heart valve disease
  • Ask: Call upon governments and national payers to fund a check for heart valve disease as part of the annual health check for over 65s
  • Action: Call upon healthcare authorities to put in place national heart valve disease guidelines
  • Access: Call upon national healthcare providers to provide wide and equal access to heart valve disease therapies

“With our ageing population and the high numbers of patients being diagnosed with heart valve disease across Europe, awareness of the disease is essential,” said Eleonora Selvi, Head of Communications for Cuore Italia. “The six countries involved in the European Alliance are all dedicated to making sure that the Four As are realised for the benefit of heart valve disease patients across Europe.”

At the meeting, a number of activities were proposed for each of the participating countries involved. Some suggestions included patient engagement dialogue and roundtables, clinician collaboration and information sharing and a discussion on new methods for developing more awareness around heart valve disease.

To find out more about the European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week in your area contact your closest European Heart Valve Disease Alliance Patient Organisation:

Heart Valve Disease – a brief introduction

Written by Croí’s Cardiovascular Nurse Specialist, Patricia Hall

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term for all types of disease that affect the heart and blood vessels. Most commonly it refers to coronary heart disease (angina and heart attack) and stroke. However, there are other heart conditions that can affect your heart’s valves, muscle or rhythm.

Heart valve disease is when one or more of the valves in your heart become diseased or damaged, preventing them from opening or closing properly. You have 4 valves in your heart (2 on the right, 2 on the left) that keep blood flowing in the right direction.

These valves can be affected in 2 ways:

  1. the valve area can become narrowed, not opening fully and causing an obstruction or blockage to the flow of blood. This is called valve stenosis; or
  2. the valve may not close properly allowing blood to flow backwards in the wrong direction. This is called valve regurgitation or incompetence.

Common causes of heart valve disease include congenital heart birth defects, infections and degeneration over time. Due to wear and tear or high blood pressure, the prevalence increases with ageing.

You may not experience any symptoms of heart valve disease for many years or they may seem vague and non-specific.

Common symptoms can include:

  • shortness of breath particularly on exertion;
  • fatigue or feeling excessively tired;
  • swelling of the ankles;
  • chest pain or tightness;
  • dizziness or fainting.

Sometimes valve disease is only discovered when your doctor listens to your heart with a stethoscope and hears an abnormal heart murmur (heart sound).

Many people with heart valve disease can live a normal life for many years, with little treatment. In some cases the valve may need to be repaired or replaced. This depends on which of the valves is affected, the severity of your condition and if it is getting worse. Increased awareness and early detection of this condition can mean heart valve disease is entirely treatable. Lifestyle changes and medicines often can treat symptoms successfully and delay problems for many years. Eventually, though, you may need surgery or a less invasive procedure to repair or replace the damaged valve.

Remember, heart disease – and heart valve disease in particular – is easier to treat when detected early, so keep an eye on our website for a full article on heart valve disease coming shortly.