The event, which took place during Heart Failure Awareness Week (1st May – 7th May), is the first installment in a series of talks being hosted around the country about heart failure. Experts provided information and advice on living well with heart failure for patients, carers, and healthcare professionals, followed by a Q&A and time for tea and coffee.
Speaking at the event were Professor Emer Joyce, Consultant Heart Function and Transplant Cardiologist at the Mater Hospital; Dr Sinead Mulhern, Principal Psychologist at the Mater Hospital; Karen Maclaughlin, who is living with heart failure; Pauline O’Shea, Advocacy Campaign Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation; and Orna O’Brien, Senior Dietitian with the Irish Heart Foundation.
The mood of the evening was empowering, as each speaker assured people living with heart failure patients that it was possible to have a good quality of life with heart failure. The audience was given words of encouragement on the practical steps they can take to live well with the condition, from medication and dietary management, to mindfulness and self-care.
“ No one knows what you can achieve with time, medication, and hard work.”
There are approximately 90,000 people in Ireland are living with heart failure, or “heart inefficiency” as it is sometimes known. Heart failure is a condition that occurs when the heart is not pumping enough blood around the body, due to weakness or stiffness in the walls of the heart. According to Professor Emer Joyce, who gave a presentation titled Causes, Diagnosis, and Management of Heart Failure, said there can be a variety of symptoms of heart failure, beyond shortness of breath and swelling, which are typically associated with the condition.
“Everyone with a diagnosis of heart failure can be on medications and can make lifestyle changes,” said Professor Joyce, reminding the audience that their quality of life does not need to deteriorate due to heart failure.
The Irish Heart Foundation’s Senior Dietitian Orna O’Brien echoed this message by outlining the role diet can play in managing heart failure. She shared practical information with the audience about the dietary guidelines for heart failure patients, as well as tips to cut down on salt and processed food.
“ You might feel very alone and small, but your voice could make such a difference.”
Though the physical management of the condition was very much to the fore, Dr Sinead Mulhern emphasised the importance of taking time to look after your psychological wellbeing after a diagnosis of heart failure. “Often we are very good at showing compassion for other people, but we are not always so good at showing compassion to ourselves,” explained Dr Mulhern, encouraging heart failure patients to make time for self-care in their recovery.
A highlight of the evening was hearing from Karen Maclaughlin and Pauline O’Shea about their personal experiences of heart failure. O’Shea spoke about the importance of patient voices in advocacy, and told the audience, “You might feel very alone and small, but your voice could make such a difference.”
Karen Macaughlin shared similar words of inspiration and reassurance in speaking about her experience of living with heart failure since 2020, saying, “No one knows what you can achieve with time, medication, and hard work.”
“ We were delighted with the success of the first event in our Heart Failure Awareness and Education Series, and we look forward to visiting more counties across Ireland with heart failure information and support sessions in the coming months.”
In addition to hearing from the panel of speakers, attendees were also given a heart failure support pack and an overview of the Irish Heart Foundation support services they can avail of, including Cardiac Rehab for All, counselling and access to the Nurse Support Line. The evening concluded with teas and coffees, giving attendees the opportunity to mingle and share their outlooks and experiences with each other.
Speaking about the event, Helen Gaynor, Head of Community Support Services in the Irish Heart Foundation, said, “We were delighted with the success of the first event in our Heart Failure Awareness and Education Series, and we look forward to visiting more counties across Ireland with heart failure information and support sessions in the coming months.”
If you missed this event you can watch it back here. Please also keep visit our website and social media for updates on the next events near you.
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