Irish Heart Foundation’s Year in Review 2019

By June Shannon Heart News   |   20th Dec 2019

Almost 9,000 people will have lost their lives over the past 12 months to heart disease and stroke- we need to do better.

As Christmas approaches and another year closes in, this is traditionally a time for reflecting on the past 12 months and remembering all that has been achieved. Equally it’s a time to look forward to the new year and the endless possibilities that lie ahead.

For more than half a century the Irish Heart Foundation has been dedicated to raising awareness of and combatting the devastating impact of heart disease and stroke.

Our work includes advocating for people living with cardiovascular disease and providing a voice for those affected, informing the public on all aspects of heart health, providing free heart health checks and CPR classes and supporting those most affected by heart disease and stroke through our nationwide patient support groups.

We are also passionate about helping others to live their best lives and are proud of our work in the areas of smoking cessation, childhood obesity and health inequality to name but a few.

In the past 12 months thanks to the support of our donors and volunteers we have done all of this and more . Here is a small snapshot of our year in review.


In January we learned that heart disease was amid the top threats to global health in 2019, underlining the importance of our work in health promotion and prevention of cardiovascular disease.


In February we took over Valentine’s Day for our annual fundraising Show Some Heart campaign.

Valentine’s Day saw our staff and wonderful volunteers packing bags in Dunnes Stores to raise funds for life-saving programmes like free heart health checks in local communities, free CPR training in schools and communities and support groups for people affected by heart disease and stroke.

Thank you so much for all your support and we look forward to seeing you on Valentine’s Day next year.


In March we launched our new ‘Hands for Life’ free community CPR training programme .

The programme, which is supported by Abbott and ESB Networks, was launched by nurse Aoife McGivney, who used her CPR training to save the life of a bus driver who was suffering a cardiac emergency.

At the Irish Heart Foundation, we are on a mission to save lives. We want to create a nation of lifesavers by training as many people as possible in the lifesaving skill of CPR. That is why we developed the Hands for Life programme.

At the Irish Heart Foundation, we are on a mission to save lives. We want to create a nation of lifesavers by training as many people as possible in the lifesaving skill of CPR.



April saw the launch of our new campaign to raise awareness of heart failure; a condition that affects 90,000 people in Ireland.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s heart failure awareness campaign ‘Don’t ignore the signs of Heart Failure’, was supported by Novartis.

The campaign educated the public about the warning signs and symptoms of heart failure and included an online symptom checker.

The campaign was launched by former Sunday Game presenter, heart failure patient and campaign ambassador Michael Lyster and included a series of public information meetings across the country for heart failure patients and people concerned about the condition.


In May we met a truly inspirational woman Karen Ward who, six months after open-heart surgery, was preparing to run the Vhi Dublin Women’s Mini Marathon in support of the Irish Heart Foundation’s work.

Karen 46 and a mum of three from Carrickmacross in Co. Monaghan, was told that without the operation she would have a 50 per cent chance of being alive in five years’ time.

Karen said she decided to run the Mini Marathon for the Irish Heart Foundation for a number of reasons, mainly because when she was in hospital, she witnessed just how many people and their families are affected by heart disease.

She also said she was very grateful to the Irish Heart Foundation for the invaluable advice and support she received during her recovery in the form of patient information leaflets.


In June we teamed up with parkrun Ireland to promote ‘parkwalk’ and our new ‘Move More Walking Challenge,’ which aimed to help people complete a 5km walk in just six weeks.

It is recommended that all adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week. However, according to the HSE, just one out of every three people in Ireland is active on a regular basis.

Most people aged over 65 in Ireland are inactive and four out of five children in Ireland are still not getting enough exercise. All of this creates serious risks to our health and wellbeing.

By staying active, you can reduce the risk of as many as 35 chronic diseases including heart disease and stroke.

In May we met a truly inspirational woman Karen Ward who, six months after open-heart surgery, was preparing to run the Vhi Dublin Women’s Mini Marathon in support of the Irish Heart Foundation.



In July we received some welcome news that the number of stroke deaths were on the decline and we also heard from Derek Bell who said that a visit to the Irish Heart Foundation’s Mobile Health Unit at the National Ploughing Championships saved his life.

According to Derek, the Mobile Health Unit is an important community resource and he recommended that anyone who sees it in their area visits for a free heart health check.

“If it hadn’t had been there up in the Ploughing Championships where would I be today?” he said.


In August we attended a special Summer School on improving healthcare for people living with overweight and obesity, which took place at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

At the event a group of medical experts called for an immediate increase of capacity in bariatric or weight loss surgery for people living with obesity in Ireland and said that serious inequality existed in relation to access to this essential surgery.

In 2018, just 12 adult bariatric surgeries per million of the population were carried out in Ireland. Meanwhile other countries are carrying out between 400 and 600 such cases per million of the population per annum.


September is Heart Month and we launched our month-long heart health campaign, ‘Escape Your Chair’.

The campaign aimed to raise awareness of prolonged sitting as a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

As part of Escape Your Chair, we created a range of resources to help people move more and sit less. These included, an online sitting time calculator, a Deskercise video, a Move More Walking Challenge, a Couch to 5k guide, as well as expert tips and advice on how to increase physical activity levels. These are available here.

As part of the campaign we spoke with neuroscientist and author, Professor Shane O Mara, about the wonders of walking.

Prof O Mara is Professor of Experimental Brain Research at Trinity College Dublin and his new book ‘In Praise of Walking- The new science of how we walk and why it’s good for us,’ celebrates the miraculous ability of walking and explains the fascinating history and science behind putting one foot in front of the other.

Thanks to Niamh’s prompt action one family is not facing a Christmas without their loved one.



Tuesday 29th October was World Stroke Day and we used this day to highlight the fact that despite a significant reduction in stroke deaths among women, their overall risk of death from stroke remains higher than men.

We urged women in particular to be aware of the warning signs of stroke as the latest statistics show that women are far more likely to die from their stroke than men.

While overall stroke deaths have fallen significantly more among women than men during the past decade, mainly due to major improvements to hospital stroke services, women are still at an increased risk of dying from stroke than men.

According to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), since 2010 when the HSE’s National Stroke Programme was established, the number of stroke deaths has fallen by more than 18 per cent, from 2,053 to 1,680 last year – a total of 373 fewer deaths a year. Deaths among women were down by 323 and men by just 50.

However, in 2018 in Ireland 935 women died from stroke which was more than 25 per cent higher than the 745 deaths recorded in men.


November saw the launch of our ground-breaking childhood obesity manifesto that aims to cut childhood obesity by 50 per cent by 2030.

Obesity represents the greatest single threat to the health and wellbeing of children in Ireland today and drastic action is needed to protect them.

This was the main message of the new manifesto which was launched at a special event in Dublin.

It is estimated that overweight and obesity will be responsible for the deaths of 85,000 children on the island of Ireland and currently, children as young as eight are presenting with high blood pressure while some teenagers have a heart health age of 60.

November also saw the return of our successful heart failure awareness campaign with patient information evenings in Sligo and Dublin.

Former Sunday Game presenter and campaign ambassador Michael Lyster made a special guest appearance at the Dublin meeting where he shared his personal experience of living with heart failure.


In December we were delighted to join forces with the Irish Cancer Society to launch new research on e-cigarette flavours and packaging.

The research, which was launched by the Minister for Health Simon Harris TD, revealed that secondary school students did not believe that sweet e-cigarette flavours such as candyfloss and bubble-gum were designed for adults only and instead such flavours were strongly associated with snacks, treats and sweets that appeal to young people.

There was also unanimous rejection by teenagers of the idea that e-cigarette companies do not design their advertising and packaging to attract children.

The Irish Heart Foundation and Irish Cancer Society called for strict restrictions on e-cigarette flavours and advertising to be included in the upcoming legislation banning the sale of e-cigarettes to under 18s.

In December we also met and spoke with heroic Garda Niamh Connaughton, who used her CPR skills to save the life of a Dublin marathon runner.

Thanks to Niamh’s prompt action one family is not facing a Christmas without their loved one.

None of what we do would be possible without our donors and volunteers so we would like to say thank you and wish you and yours a peaceful and heart happy Christmas and New Year.


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advocacy CPR ecigarettes Hands for Life heart disease heart failure mobile health unit stroke Year in review

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