The Irish Heart Foundation, supported by Novartis, has with ambassador Michael Lyster launched a new campaign - Don’t Ignore the Signs of Heart Failure. New research commissioned by the Irish Heart Foundation reveals the majority of adults in Ireland do not fully understand the condition of heart failure, which affects 90,000 people in Ireland.
Heart failure is a highly debilitating, life-threatening condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood around the body, as the walls of the heart become too weak or too stiff to work properly.2 This Irish Heart Foundation campaign aims to educate the public about the warning signs of heart failure – which include shortness of breath, swollen ankles and fatigue – and empower those who may be experiencing these symptoms not to ignore them, but rather to discuss them with a doctor as soon as possible. The good news is that people with heart failure can live a full and active life if the condition is detected and treated early.
As part of the campaign, the Irish Heart Foundation has developed a free online symptom checker to help people identify if they are experiencing heart failure symptoms. The heart failure symptom checker is available on the campaign website, KnowYourHeart.ie; people can use the checker and download their findings to help them speak to their GP if they have any concerns about their health.
Recently retired sports broadcaster and commentator Michael Lyster spoke at the launch about his own experience of living with heart failure and encouraged people to ensure they ‘play a better second half’ by being vigilant about their health: “It’s human nature to try to ‘explain away’ symptoms when we are ill, we don’t want to confront that something might be wrong. Looking back, I was experiencing all the classic symptoms of heart failure - I was constantly tired, my ankles were swollen, and I would wake up at night panting for breath - but I didn’t want to admit something was wrong for a long time. This situation really became pronounced for me at the height of ‘Sunday Game’ season in 2012, so I put it down to my hectic schedule. Thankfully, I eventually heeded the signs and got professional help before it was too late. Don’t ignore the signs of heart failure - I would urge anyone experiencing shortness of breath, fatigue and swollen ankles to contact their GP without delay.
Michael continued, “While I thoroughly enjoyed my career, I have to say that I am relishing my retirement, spending more time doing other things I love and enjoying quality time with my family. I’m able to do this by actively looking after my health. It is possible to live well with heart failure – it doesn’t have to slow you down once treated properly – I still enjoy everything, even my rally driving! - but the key is to heed the warning signs and be smart about managing your health.”
A recent survey conducted by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of the Irish Heart Foundation reveals that many Irish adults misunderstand the condition of heart failure. Almost half of those surveyed (43%) believe that heart failure means that the heart stops or shuts down, confusing the condition with a cardiac arrest. Only 23% are aware that heart failure actually means that the heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. Many people (61% of those surveyed) are unaware that swollen ankles are one of the key warning signs for heart failure. While 90% are aware that shortness of breath can be a warning sign of the condition, more than one third of people (34%) did not identify fatigue as a symptom associated with heart failure.
Dr Angie Brown, Consultant Cardiologist and Medical Director, Irish Heart Foundation, said; ‘I was not surprised to see in our research that the majority of people mistakenly think ‘heart failure’ means that your heart stops. In our experience at the Irish Heart Foundation, the word ‘failure’ is scary, and many people don’t want to confront it. We also see in our research that people mistakenly think the symptoms of heart failure are similar to those of a heart attack, i.e. pain in the chest (94%) or arm (86%).
This awareness campaign aims to educate people about the actual symptoms of heart failure which people should be vigilant for, and to also reassure people that heart failure can be managed if diagnosed and treated early. Anyone who would like to learn more about heart failure or who is concerned they may be experiencing symptoms can visit our campaign website KnowYourHeart.ie and use our online symptom checker.”
As part of the campaign, the Irish Heart Foundation will hold a series of public information meetings across the country this year for heart failure patients and people concerned about the condition. To register to attend these free events* and for further information on the campaign, please visit KnowYourHeart.ie .
Loretto Callaghan, Managing Director, Novartis said; “If you or a loved one is diagnosed with a chronic condition like heart failure, it’s normal to have a lot of questions. Novartis is proud to support the Irish Heart Foundation’s campaign and public information evenings, to ensure those who have concerns get the support they need.”
With access to timely diagnosis, appropriate medical management and follow-up services, people with heart failure can see a significant improvement in their prognosis and can live a full and active life. Due to Ireland’s ageing population, heart failure is set to increase dramatically in this country, leading to an increase in hospitalisations from heart failure of more than 50% over the next 25 years.3