Croí bedside support initiative for patients in UHG Heart Unit

Pictured from left outside University Hospital Galway (UHG): Katie McCormack, Clinical Nurse Manager, Coronary Care Unit, UHG; Sarah Molloy, Senior Staff Nurse, Coronary Care Unit, UHG; Annie Costelloe, Croí Patient and Community Engagement Manager; Dr Lisa Hynes, Croí Head of Health Programmes; and Maeve Frawley, Croí Cardiovascular Nurse Specialist and Heartlink West Nurse Lead.

Croí, the local heart and stroke charity, this week launched a special collaboration with the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) in University Hospital Galway as part of Croí’s Heartlink West support service for people living with cardiovascular disease.

Working with the team in the Heart Unit, Croí produced a series of special videos for patients who are receiving care in the Hospital CCU. Patients can now watch these informational videos on iPads donated by Croí, with videos covering a wide range of topics, including cardiac rehabilitation; diet and exercise post-cardiac event; the emotional impact of a cardiac event or procedure; as well as advice on smoking cessation.

“We’re delighted to provide this new educational video support for patients in the CCU. These videos give patients more information and advice on life post-cardiac event or their heart procedure, and we hope this service will be a support to the incredible medical and nursing team in the CCU, which is such a busy environment,” says Croí’s Head of Health Programme, Dr Lisa Hynes.

“The CCU team here in University Hospital Galway are thrilled to collaborate with Croí on this project. In facilitating these informational videos, Croí’s Heartlink West service is supporting not just the patients, but also the CCU team to deliver the very best care to our patients. The great thing about this project is that these patients and their families can also follow up with Croí’s HeartLink West nurse when they go home with any further questions or concerns they might have,” says Katie McCormack, CCU Clinical Nurse Manager.

Croí plans to expand this support service later this year to more coronary care units in the west of Ireland, with additional video content being developed in the coming months. Croí’s Heartlink West support service also offers a free telephone helpline, Monday to Friday from 9 am – 5:30 pm on 091-544310. Learn more about the work at Croí by visiting www.croi.ie.

A Christmas message from Croí CEO, Neil Johnson

Dear friends,

 

As we come to the close of another year, I wish to could convey our heartfelt thanks to all those who supported us this year.

Neil Johnson – Chief Executive

Like all organisations, especially in the non-profit sector, 2021 was another difficult year. Since the beginning of the pandemic, both those in need of healthcare and those providing it have been faced with huge challenges. In our work, we see at first hand the impact of COVID-19 on those living with or affected by heart disease and stroke. Not only are these conditions difficult in their own right but add the stress and worry of delayed access to care, postponed or cancelled appointments and procedures, growing waiting lists or the fear of contracting COVID-19 and you realise how important it is to be able to provide support to those who are feeling unwell and vulnerable.

Over the past year, Croí provided a lifeline to 80-100 callers a week to our HeartLink West support service which is led by our Cardiovascular Nurse Specialist and supported by our multi-disciplinary health team. This is a support, sign posting and education service which we launched when COVID-19 first struck in 2020 and we were delighted that this initiative was recognised nationally last month by winning an Irish Healthcare Award as the Best Patient Organisation Project of the Year. In the early part of this year, due to the continued shutdown of our heart and stroke centre in Newcastle, Galway, we launched a range of online recovery and risk factor management programmes which allowed us engage with hundreds of individuals throughout the west of Ireland. Last month for example we completed a very successful online lifestyle change programme called ‘Farmers on the Move’ working with the farming community in Mayo and Roscommon and we also completed a very successful face to face public blood pressure screening programme as part of our Mayo Third Age Programme in a unique collaboration with Pharmacies throughout the county. Through these opportunistic blood pressure checks, we discovered that over half of those who participated had high to very high blood pressure, a known risk factor for a heart attack or a stroke. These individuals are now on a pathway to better blood pressure control.

In November, we began a phased reopening of the Croí Heart and Stroke Centre to several hundred people where we recommenced targeted exercise and wellness classes delivered under guidelines restricted capacity. Recognising that it has been an extremely difficult time for everyone impacted by heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity, we reshaped our exercise programmes to focus on those most in need of support following the impact of the pandemic, something we are now calling our ‘wellness revival’ programme. Sadly, we have seen that some of the unintended consequences of the public health messaging to ‘stay at home’, has been increased physical inactivity, increased weight gain, poor dietary and sleeping behaviour and an increased prevalence of low mood and anxiety – all, individually and collectively, known risk factors for heart attack and stroke. With the easing of restrictions in recent months we were delighted to welcome back to our Croí Courtyard Apartments the families and loved ones of those receiving emergency cardiac and stroke care at GUH. These apartments offer a home from home at a time of crisis and strain when relatives need to be near their loved ones in hospital.

Despite the economic and financial burdens imposed by the pandemic on so many, we are inspired and heartened by all those who continued to contribute financially to our work throughout this difficult year. We are so grateful to everyone who got involved with our virtual fundraising events, from the Couch to the Wild Atlantic Way, to the Croí Cycle and the ever-growing Croí Night Run. As we rely totally on our own capacity to generate the funds necessary to do our work, we never take the support we receive for granted. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to all our donors, volunteers, corporate and business supporters who continue to give so freely year on year. We are also very fortunate to have an extremely dedicated and committed staff, voluntary board of directors and a large team of tireless volunteers.

It’s appropriate therefore to convey our sincere thanks to all and to wish everyone a very happy, healthy and safe Christmas.

 

Yours sincerely,

Neil Johnson
CEO, Croí

Heartlink West

Call: 091 544310

Or email: healthteam@croi.ie

Croí’s FREE telephone helpline, Heartlink West, is available for those living with, or affected by, heart disease and stroke. When you call, you will be connected with one of our Cardiac Nurse Specialists or you can join one of our weekly, virtual health chats!

Heartlink West is available weekdays from 9am – 5:30pm on 091 544310 or by email at healthteam@croi.ie.

Heartlink West Virtual Chats

Join our free Heartlink West virtual chats, taking place every Thursday at 11 am via Zoom.

  • Thursday, June 2nd – Eating for a Healthy Heart Register Now

Zoom Training

Make the most of Croí’s online resources with our Zoom Training, taking place every Wednesday at 12 pm sharp, with Bridget Cheasty, Croí’s Health Team Administrator.

By learning how to use Zoom, you can access Croí resources such as:

Sign-Up to Receive the Latest News and Events from the Croí Health Team

Croí Connects

Croí Connects is an online series, where Croí will connect with medical experts for a questions and answers session to help answer your questions on heart disease, stroke, COVID-19 and lots more.

Resources

Jump to section:

Heart Conditions:

Stroke:

Have you or a loved one survived a stroke? Join Croí’s Stroke Support Groups online each month.

  • The Croí Galway Stroke Support Group meets virtually via Zoom on the second Thursday of every month at 2:00pm.
  • The Croí Mayo Stroke Support Group meets virtually via Zoom on the last Thursday of every month at 11.30am.

If you want to join and have not used Zoom before, Croí can help. Call us on 091 544310 or email healthteam@croi.ie to receive meeting details and technical support.

Risk factors you can change:

Risk Factors you cannot change:

Healthy Eating:

Home Workouts:

Mental Health & Wellbeing:

Booklet Resources:

Click to download

An initiative by Croí, endorsed by Cardiology Services, HSE Saolta University Healthcare Group.

To date, this initiative has been made possible thanks to the very generous support of the following:

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.

Croí Responds to COVID-19 in the West of Ireland

New Service Launched for Heart & Stroke Patients & Carers

Local Heart & Stroke Charity Croí is responding to the increased needs of those living with heart disease and stroke, as a consequence of COVID-19. Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Croí has been experiencing an ever-increasing demand for information, support and advice from heart and stroke patients and their carers.

“Our health team of community nurses, dietitians, physios and exercise specialists are receiving phone calls, emails and significantly increased web and social media correspondence from all over Ireland – with the greatest demand being from the west of Ireland” says Croí CEO Neil Johnson, who outlined the reasons for this as:

  • Increased fear, anxiety and worry among heart patients and their families due to their increased vulnerability to COVID-19.
  • Increased need for reliable information and reassurance from a healthcare professional.
  • Increased isolation and loneliness.
  • Reduced access (perceived and real) to GP’s, or community health services.
  • Reduced access to services (e.g. cardiac rehabilitation, heart failure nurse specialists etc.) due to redeployment of HSE staff or postponement of services.
  • Cancelled or postponed clinic appointments or hospital procedures.
  • Reduced quality time with doctors or nurses – quicker discharge from hospital; shorter appointments (e.g.: virtual clinics).

“Many people are afraid to visit their doctor or hospital, despite having symptoms that warrant attention and this will lead to adverse or worse outcomes,” said Johnson.

With funding support from local and national healthcare companies, Croí has launched a new community support service across the West of Ireland – Heartlink West – with endorsement from the cardiology services of the Saolta Group.

Announcing details of this new initiative, Croí CEO Neil Johnson said that: “Heartlink West will provide FREE support from our community based, multi-disciplinary health team, led by three highly-experienced cardiac nurse specialists. Concerned individuals can connect with us through a telephone helpline and daily ‘virtual health chats’. Those who call the helpline can speak with Nurses, Dietitians, Physios and Exercise Specialists. For the duration of the current crisis, we aim to provide this FREE service, Monday to Friday from 09:30 -17:30.”

Heartlink West has been made possible thanks to the support of several generous donations from regional and national companies. To learn more about this initiative or for ways to support us please visit www.croi.ie/heartlinkwest.

HeartLink West is available Monday – Friday from 9:00am – 5:30pm. Call 091-544310 or email healthteam@croi.ie.