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 11am via Zoom.

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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.

Secondary prevention of heart attack and stroke in Europe: consensus report

CVD is Europe’s biggest killer and a leading cause of unplanned hospitalisations, with millions suffering a heart attack or stroke every year. Less well known is that many of these are repeat events, happening among those already known to be at high risk. It is well proven that many such events are preventable with the right package of specialised acute care, structured rehabilitation and long term management.

However, a new report has revealed the scale of systemic gaps and inequalities in CVD prevention and care for these high needs groups. This is driving significant healthcare costs and many avoidable hospital admissions, yet heart attack and stroke appear to be largely deprioritised at policy level, with few countries maintaining formal plans or strategies to tackle entrenched systemic failures and improve long-term patient outcomes. The report, ‘Secondary prevention of heart attack and stroke in Europe’, was developed by The Health Policy Partnership, with input from an Advisory Panel of leading European experts in CVD prevention, including patient representation from Croí. The pan-European summary report is accompanied by 11 country profiles exploring the national situation in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and the UK.

 

Read the report now.

Caring for each other: Padraic and Delia’s Story

This week, June 7th, is National Carers Week. Croí chatted with Padraic Costello, who shares his story with his wife, Delia. 

Padraic Costello and his wife, Delia, from Ballinrobe Co. Mayo, have been married for 45 years, with 5 children and 12 grandchildren. The couple have had to overcome many health challenges in the last couple of years, but Padraic remains optimistic, telling people to always “look at the glass half full”.

In 2013, Padraic was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but was treated immediately and made a great recovery. After, in 2016, Padraic was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and understandably, himself and Delia became worried. After returning home from a holiday to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in 2016, Delia began to complain of very bad headaches. Padraic brought her straight to the doctor, in which the doctor put it down to stress due to her husband’s illness. However, the pain never seemed to go away, and Delia began to get worse. Several weeks later, they discover that Delia was suffering a stroke and she was brought straight to Dublin for treatment.

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From that day on, Padraic stayed by Delia’s side and became her primary carer. “She was there for me, and now it’s my turn to care for her”, says Padraic. Padraic drove his camper-van to the hospital in Dublin, parked in the car park, and lived there for 3 weeks while Delia received treatment. Bringing Delia home was a big change for them both, but Padraic credits the support he received from his children, especially as he battled his own illness. Padraic made all the necessary adjustments to their house in preparation for Delia’s return.

Although Padraic was now caring for his wife, he still wanted to regain some normality. Padraic and Delia will regularly go for spins at the weekend and, being such a big fan of the matches himself, Padraic even brought Delia to Croagh Park to see Mayo vs. Dublin in the All Ireland! He says, “there’s a lot more planning and researching needed now whenever we want to do something, but it’s worth it to enjoy a bit of normality together”.

Padraic and Delia regularly attend Croí’s Stroke Support Groups, which welcome both stroke survivors and their family members and carers. This week is National Carers Week and Croí wants to raise awareness about the amazing work carers do. Padraic has a message for carers, particularly those looking after loved ones, “I am grateful to be as good as I am today, but of course, there are bad days. But everybody has bad days. You just can’t let the bad days take over the good days”.

To learn more or join Croí’s Stroke Support Group, visit our stroke webpage, or email healthteam@croi.ie.

Win a Volvo with Croí

*Raffle now closed*  Winner announced, read more.

Croí, the Heart & Stroke Charity, is delighted to announce the opportunity to win a brand new Volvo XC40, worth over €40,000 (plus – you get to choose the colour!).

Visit winavolvo.ie to purchase your ticket and be in with a chance to win this fantastic prize. Tickets for the Croí ‘Win a Volvo’ draw are available now for just €20.

The new XC40 is Volvo’s first compact SUV. It is compact but spacious, delivering an excellent drive every time. The XC40 mixes bold looks with stylish interiors, comfortable materials with ingenious storage, class-leading safety and cutting-edge technology. This incredible prize is presented thanks to the kind and loyal support of Kenny Galway and Volvo Cars Ireland. Kenny Galway’s Volvo dealership is located at City North Business Park, Tuam Road, Galway city.

All monies raised will directly support the fight against heart disease and stroke. “The impact of COVID-19 will be felt for a long time to come. Many doctor and hospital appointments and procedures have been delayed or postponed, many people have delayed seeking medical help, and now we have an even greater burden of disease,” says Croí CEO, Neil Johnson.

People living with heart disease and stroke need our support now, more than ever.

Brian Kenny, Kenny Galway, with Christine Flanagan, Croí.
Brian Kenny, Kenny Galway, with Christine Flanagan, Croí.

Please support us. Tickets cost just €20, with bundles of 3 tickets for €50 or 7 tickets for €100. Visit winavolvo.ie to purchase your tickets now. The draw will take place on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021.

Croí World Stroke Day Webinar – 2020

Croí invited the public to a FREE webinar to learn more about stroke and stroke recovery on World Stroke Day, October 29th, 2020.

Guest speakers included:
Dr. Niamh Hannon, Consultant in Stroke & Geriatric Medicine
Norita Ní Chartúr, Stroke Survivor
Trish Galvin, Advanced Nurse Practitioner Stroke Care
Ciara Breen, Senior Occupational Therapist

If you missed the live webinar, watch it here now!

Putting Focus on Stroke – World Stroke Day, Thursday October 29th.

As many as 1 in 5 people in Galway will have a stroke at some time in their lives. A stroke which is a ‘brain attack’ – is to the brain, what a heart attack is to the heart, says local heart & stroke charity Croí, ahead of World Stoke Day on Thursday October 29th.

“Stroke is one of the biggest causes of death and disability across the world” says Croí CEO Neil Johnson. “A stroke, which is a blood clot or bleed in the brain, can be fatal and cause death or cause irreversible damage to different parts of the brain which control, for example, our speech, our thinking or our movement. Many causes of stroke are completely outside of our control, however, there are some causes which we can prevent, such as high blood pressure or untreated heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation.

To mark World Stroke Day, Croí invites people to a FREE Webinar on Thursday October 29th from 7pm – 8.30pm to learn more about stroke, stroke recovery and how to prevent one. A panel of local medical and nursing experts will speak on the causes and signs and symptoms of a stroke while a local stroke survivor will share her experience of stroke, stroke recovery and living life after a stroke. The event is supported by local company, Surmodics (Ballinasloe) who are corporate partners to the Croí Stroke Programmes & Supports.

Announcing details of the event, Croí CEO Neil Johnson says “this is a great opportunity to learn more about stroke, its impact and most importantly the steps we can take to reduce our risk of a stroke. People usually think of a stroke as an older persons problem but unfortunately, stroke has no respect for age or gender. In fact, we are increasingly seeing more cases or ‘young and working age’ strokes. The impact of a stroke can be devastating both for the survivor and their families. While incredible advances have been made in terms of stroke detection and stroke treatment, we have a long way to go in Ireland in terms of stroke recovery and rehabilitation post hospital discharge.”

Guest speakers on the Croí World Stroke Day Webinar on October 29th are:

  • Dr Niamh Hannon, Stroke Specialist, Galway University Hospital
  • Trish Galvin, Advanced Nurse Practitioner in Stroke Care, Galway University Hospital
  • Ciara Breen, Senior Occupational Therapist, Galway University Hospital
  • Norita Ní Chartúr, Stroke Survivor

Registration for this Webinar, which is FREE, is now open at www.croi.ie/strokeday20

Looking after your emotional health & well-being

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It is normal to feel concerned about COVID-19. Being asked to avoid and reduce human contact, to socially distance ourselves and to self-isolate goes against human nature. It is the opposite of what humans want to do in a crisis. This can affect your mental and physical health. However, there are many things you can do to mind your mental health and it is important to stay positive and focus on what can you do rather than what you cannot.

Firstly, being aware of your own emotions addressing how you think and feel, will help you in coping. Over the coming days, weeks and months people’s lives will change, but it is important to keep things in perspective as this will pass.

You may notice feeling

  • increased anxiety
  • feeling stressed
  • finding yourself excessively checking for symptoms, in yourself, or others
  • becoming irritable more easily
  • feeling insecure or unsettled
  • fearing that normal aches and pains might be the virus
  • having trouble sleeping
  • feeling helpless or a lack of control
  • having irrational thoughts

People with cardiovascular disease

People who have cardiovascular disease or who have experienced a stroke may be more likely to experience anxiety or stress in relation to the outbreak of COVID-19 virus. There are many reasons for this, such as the fact that you are in the at risk group for COVID-19 virus. You are at no greater risk of developing COVID-19 than anyone else. However, if you do contract the virus you have a higher chance of developing complications. 

Although the link between stress and the risk of heart disease and stroke is not well understood, we do know that stress can increase your blood pressure, impact on the blood clotting mechanism and result in people leading an unhealthy lifestyle. For example as a coping mechanism people are more likely to increase their caffeine intake, smoke, drink more alcohol and be less active when they are stressed.

If you have heart disease, being anxious or stressed may bring on symptoms like angina (chest pains).  If you do experience chest pains, please do not delay in calling 999 or 112. The emergency departments are still open for business as are all hospitals.

It isn’t possible to avoid stress completely but we can change the way we cope with it, particularly with of the outbreak of COVID-19 and the imposed control measures. 

Our top 5 recommendations for reducing stress and anxiety:

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1. Stay connected

Social support is proven to be an important factor in protecting our mental health against negative feelings. Stay in touch with friends and family using mobile technology such as WhatsApp, Skype and video calls. Telephone, text and email. Check in on elderly and vulnerable neighbours. Remember you don’t have to appear strong and try to cope with things on your own. Speaking to others and talking things through can reduce anxiety and worry.

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2. Limit your exposure to media

The constant stream of updates and news about COVID-19 can be overwhelming and cause increased anxiety. It can be difficult to separate facts from fiction. Use only trustworthy and reliable sources such the HSE and the Department of Health. Try to limit social media usage, set yourself times during the day to check for updates. If you are finding the COVID-19 coverage upsetting or too intense talk it through with a friend or family member. Remember much of the information online is driven by people’s personal opinion’s, beliefs and agendas and it may not be helpful for you to take these on as your own right now.

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3. Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep is closely linked to our mood and mental health, sleep disruption and poor quality sleep can negatively impact on your mood. Try to maintain regular sleep patterns it can be unhealthy to fall into bad habits such as going to bed later and getting up later. Changes to your sleep pattern now could impact on your mood in the weeks, months ahead. Try to maintain a routine scheduling daily activities throughout the day such as exercise and relaxing activities. If worrying feelings or thoughts are preventing you from achieving good quality sleep, try talking them through with someone.

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4. Maintain a healthy routine

Your normal daily routine may be affected by COVID-19, but trying to keep some structure will help. Pay attention to your needs and feelings during this time especially during times of stress. You may still be able to do some of the things you enjoy and find relaxing. For example this may include regular exercise, practicing relaxation techniques or reading a book. Try Chair Yoga with our incredible instructor, Vicky Harkin!

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5. Practice self-care

In times like this with the outbreak of COVID-19 we have a responsibility to ourselves to practice self-care. If we don’t practice self-care we will be of less use to ourselves and to others. Examples of self-care include:

  • cooking healthy nourishing meals
  • allowing yourself time to engage in the things you enjoy
  • taking time to relax
  • setting boundaries – such as saying no to visitors and reducing demands on yourself to prevent burn out
  • Practice mindfulness, meditation, walking or baking- small changes that you will be able to continue with post COVID-19

Try to keep things in perspective, things will get better.

Reflexology Helping Stroke Survivors

Excerpt from the 2018 Croí Annual Report

Penny Jones has been practicing complementary therapies for many years, and for the past six years she has worked with 800+ stroke survivors in Galway, in a Reflexology project funded by Croí.

One morning each week, Penny alternates her time between three stroke units: St. Anne’s Ward at University Hospital Galway, Hospital Ground, and Unit 4 at Merlin Park Hospital, meeting with patients who are recovering from acute and long-term affects of stroke.

The effects of stroke can vary widely and depend on what part of the brain has been injured. A stroke survivor may experience paralysis, muscle weakness or loss of sensation on one side of the body.

The Reflexology treatment supports the body’s natural healing process and helps patients recovering from a stroke to relax. “It works especially well before a patient receives physiotherapy as it improves circulation and the patient has greater awareness of the stroke affected part of the body,” says Penny.

Penny’s background is in Nursing and Yoga, which compliments her practice of Reflexology. “The hospital staff are so supportive and really see the benefits for patients. It’s a real treat for patients… I listen to their stories and the treatment allows them a chance to truly relax and feel at ease,” says Penny.

 

Read more about Croí’s Stroke Support services in our 2018 Annual Report!

What is Reflexology?
Reflexology was first practiced by the ancient Egyptians and is based on the principal that all the areas on the body are mapped out on the feet. During a treatment, the feet are worked on with finger pressure inducing deep relaxation, cleansing, revitalising and balancing the whole system.

Support Croí this Christmas!

“The loss of conversation has been one of the hardest things…
but sometimes John will say a word and it will make me smile.” – Mary Kelly

Take part in Croí’s Golden Ticket Raffle and help stroke survivors like John find their voice again. Great cash prizes to be won and you can make a huge difference to life after stroke.

It was Christmas eight years ago that everything changed for the Kelly Family. John Kelly, then a 48-year-old Garda Sergeant based in Loughrea, Co. Galway, suffered a massive, life-changing stroke. John was rushed to Galway University Hospital and he spent the next 18 weeks receiving care across three more hospitals. “It was a very exhausting time, and we had Santa come in the middle of that! I tried to make things as normal as possible for the children,” says Mary, John’s wife, speaking of their four children – the eldest twins were 13 years old and the youngest was just 6 years old.

Eventually, John returned home to his family in Cregmore, Co. Galway, but he was faced with the long-term effects of stroke. John suffered severe speech impairments, affecting how he speaks and his ability to understand what is being said. He was left with very few words.

John needed help. But so too did Mary, as a stroke carer.

“A family member read online about Croí’s Stroke Support services and we knew we had to get involved. John started with the Gentle Yoga class, before joining the Stroke Support Group and the Stroke Communication Group,” says Mary.

John now receives specialist support from the Croí Health Team, including biweekly communication sessions with Libby Kinneen, our Speech and Language Therapist. John first met Libby five years ago and he has made real progress in gaining confidence with life after stroke. “More words… friends,” says John. Mary also attends Croí as part of the Stroke Carers Group, “It’s so great to meet like-minded people. For my sanity it was so necessary to talk to other people. Life after stroke is so lonely, you feel isolated… Croí is a place to come and feel relaxed, and where no one will judge you.”

A huge milestone in John’s speech work with Libby was actually being able to say the word ‘Ballybofey’, a really important word for John as it is his wife’s hometown. “It meant something to John and Mary,” says Libby. The ‘Ballybofey’ breakthrough gave John confidence in his speech.

“Croí’s Communication Group has been wonderful for John,” says Mary. “Sometimes John will say a word and it will make me smile. But he might never say it again. The loss of conversation has been one of the hardest things.”

With thanks to generous donors, Croí is able to offer free stroke support services to stroke survivors, their family members and their carers. These services are totally supported by the funds we raise every year, including through the Golden Ticket Raffle!

Will you support our annual raffle and help us continue to support stroke survivors and their families, like the Kellys? Each ticket costs just €5 and there are so many great cash prizes to win, with a total prize fund of €5,000!

Tickets can be purchased here.

Thank you for your support!

John Kelly with his wife, Mary Kelly
John Kelly with his wife, Mary Kelly
The Kelly Family
The Kelly Family