The estimated 1,800 people living with heart failure in Laois are being urged to embrace a wide range of supports to help them manage the chronic condition.
The Irish Heart Foundation is at the centre of a national drive to provide vital back-up to patients who need help coping with the illness.
The plea for patients to reach out coincides with conclusion of Heart Failure Awareness Week – but, they say, supports are available year round.
“People often feel shock, trauma and isolation after a diagnosis of heart failure, but with the right supports, it is manageable,” said Lucinda McNerney, the Irish Heart Foundation’s Heart Failure Programme Manager.
“We want to let these patients in Laois know that we are with them on that journey, in terms of counselling, online meetings, a Nurse Support Line, exercise classes, newsletters, a podcast series and peer-to-peer support to help them to keep well, both physically and mentally.
“We have patients in our network aged 30 and above, whose daily lives have changed – their work status, having to take medication, dealing with lower energy.
“All this can be helped with access to information and support, both from our healthcare professionals and talking to people on a similar path.”
Heart failure occurs when the organ stops working as well as it should and finds it more difficult to pump blood around the body efficiently.
Consultant Cardiologist at the Mater Hospital and Chair of the Irish Heart Foundation’s Heart Failure Council, Dr Emer Joyce, says it 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.
“You can live with heart failure and people can actually get it into remission,” she said.
“People who are most likely to achieve that are those who not only follow the medications, but follow all the lifestyle factors such as being physically active, keeping a healthy BMI and minimising any potential cardiotoxins.”
Mother-of-three Karen MacLaughlin, 57, one of the 90,000 people in Ireland living with heart failure, says every day is a fight since her diagnosis in January last year.
“Fear becomes your daily companion; fear of dying, your heart condition worsening, another heart attack. Every day is a fight and our invisible disability is not recognised,” said the former Holles Street midwife from Sallynoggin, Dublin.
“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.”
If you are a heart failure patient and would like to join the Irish Heart Foundation’s Network and access support, you can sign up at irishheart.ie.