Galway is the first city and county in Europe to launch a heart failure awareness campaign.
The Mayor of Galway city, Cllr Pearce Flannery and the Mayor of County Galway, Cllr Eileen Mannion, joined forces at the weekend at the Croí Heart and Stroke Centre to launch the "Acting on Heart Failure" awareness initiative.
Galway is one of 40 European cities to participate in this global patient-group led heart failure awareness drive. The campaign is being co-ordinated by Croí. May is European Heart Failure Awareness Month.
Heart failure is a major heart condition which is debilitating and life-threatening, affecting people of all ages but is most prevalent in the over 60s. It is the most frequent cause of hospitalisation in people over the age of 65.
It is a condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood around the body because the muscle of the heart becomes too weak or too stiff to work properly. If poorly treated, it has a worse prognosis than many forms of cancer.
However, with access to timely diagnosis, appropriate medical management and follow-up services, a patient's prognosis can be significantly improved. Due to Ireland's ageing population, heart failure is set to increase dramatically, leading to an a predicted increase in hospital admissions of more than 50 per cent over the next 25 years.
About 90,000 people in Ireland; 15 million people in Europe, and 60 million people worldwide are living with heart failure. Many have a very poor quality of life due to poor initial recognition of symptoms; poor or late diagnosis; inequity of access to specialist care, including heart failure nurse specialists, and low availability of community shared and continued care.
Speaking at the launch at the Croí Heart and Stroke Centre, Croí CEO Neil Johnson said the charity is delighted to lead this European initiative.
"It's time heart failure patients were heard. We are teaming up with patient organisations across the globe, including the Heartbeat Trust here in Ireland, to join the global newly unified patient voice to call for better services and care. The reason for this European campaign is that in Ireland, and across Europe, heart failure has been for too long a forgotten condition in health policy despite its enormous economic impact and the huge burden carried by those living with the condition. Consequently, there are huge challenges which need to be tackled."
The "Acting on Heart Failure" campaign has five key objectives:-
Improve public understanding of heart failure
While the term HF is very negative and can be scary, early diagnosis and proper management can give a good quality of life
Help people recognise the symptoms
Unfortunately, the typical symptoms are often mistaken as normal signs of ageing
Help people differentiate heart failure from other heart conditions
Fewer than five per cent of the public know what heart failure is. It is not a heart attack or cardiac arrest. These terms are often used interchangeably without knowing the difference. In simple terms, a heart attack is a "plumbing problem," cardiac arrest is an "electrical problem", and heart failure is a "pumping problem".
Educate people on who can be affected
People of all ages can develop heart failure, primarily linked to anything that damages the heart muscle, eg high blood pressure, heart attack, or a virus. Most heart failure is due to heart disease and most frequently occurs in the older years but it is not just an older person's disease.
Provide support to sufferers
Because heart failure is largely a chronic disease, those living with it have need support and understanding and much needs to be done in this area, particularly in terms of psychological support.