Heart failure is manageable with the right supports

By June Shannon Heart News   |   10th May 2021

Heart Failure Awareness Week runs from May 10th to 16th  – The Irish Heart Foundation provides a range of free supports to people living with heart failure

Karen MacLaughlin, 57 is one of an estimated 90,000 people living with heart failure in Ireland. Speaking about her experience of heart failure she said she was transformed from a strong, independent woman into a frail, fragile version of herself when she was first diagnosed in January last year.

Heart Failure Awareness Week runs from today (Monday May 10th) to Saturday the 16th of May and the Irish Heart Foundation has a range of free supports available to help people like Karen who said that without such support she would not have coped.

“My survival was a surprise to all, a large scar on my heart that would never recover following emergency stenting, a diagnosis of reduced ejection fraction heart failure and insertion of an ICD,” said the former Holles Street midwife from Sallynoggin in Dublin.

Karen added that the “physical impacts and psychological fallout is completely overwhelming, with low mood and depression adding to the challenges. Fear becomes your daily companion…fear of dying, your heart condition worsening, another heart attack. Every day is a fight, our invisible disability not recognised.

“The charity’s Facebook group, ‘Heart Support Network’ gives me the opportunity to see the stories of other people who face similar challenges and enables me to feel less alone and isolated. Living well with heart failure requires continuous self-management and the Irish Heart Foundation’s monthly meetings provide connection, valuable further education and relevant and practical advice which is hugely beneficial,” she added.

" Fear becomes your daily companion…fear of dying, your heart condition worsening, another heart attack."

Karen MacLaughlin

Heart failure occurs when the heart stops working as well as it should and finds it more difficult to pump blood around the body efficiently.

Lucinda McNerney, the Irish Heart Foundation’s Heart Failure Programme Manager, said the charity was embarking on a national drive to support people who need help to manage their condition.

“People feel shock and trauma and there can be an isolation after the diagnosis of heart failure, but with the right supports, heart failure is manageable,” she said.

“We have patients in our network aged 30 and above, whose daily lives have changed – a change in work status, having to take medication, lower energy. All this can be helped with access to quality information and support, both from our healthcare professionals and talking to people on a similar journey.

“Our supports, which include counselling, online meetings, a Nurse Support Line, exercise classes, newsletters, a podcast series, and peer to peer support help patients and their families to keep well both physically and mentally.”

“People feel shock and trauma and there can be an isolation after the diagnosis of heart failure, but with the right supports, heart failure is manageable,”

Lucinda McNerney, Heart Failure Programme Manager,, The Irish Heart Foundation

The Irish Heart Foundation’s Heart Failure Programme also provides regular information sessions on medication, lifestyle changes, self-management and diet with healthcare professionals.

Consultant Cardiologist at the Mater University Hospital in Dublin, and Chair of the Irish Heart Foundation’s Heart Failure Council, Dr Emer Joyce, said heart failure can arise independent of age – with lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking, excess alcohol consumption and lack of exercise fuelling increased prevalence of cases among younger people.

“Most people will find a diagnosis overwhelming. One of the first roles that I have is to reassure them that heart failure does not mean their heart is not working or that it is failing,” she says.

“It means that it has become inefficient at performing its job adequately so we want to do everything to make the heart as efficient as possible. You can live with heart failure and people can actually get their heart failure into remission.

“People who are most likely to achieve that are those who not only follow the medications, but follow all the lifestyle factors such as limiting salt, maintaining a healthy diet, being physically active, keeping a healthy BMI and minimising any potential cardiotoxins.”

If you are a heart failure patient and would like to join the Irish Heart Foundation’s Network and access support, sign up here  or contact Lucinda McNerney on Tel: 01-668 5001 or email: heartfailure@irishheart.ie

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