'Every day is a fight': Nearly 10,000 people living with heart failure in Cork, says charity

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
'Every day is a fight': Nearly 10,000 people living with heart failure in Cork, says charity

Heart failure can happen independent of age and is of increasing prevalence among young people according to Dr Emer Joyce. File picture.

An estimated 10,000 people are living with heart failure in Cork, more than 10% of the 90,000 living with the chronic condition in Ireland. 

That is according to the Irish Heart Foundation which is urging people to access the right supports to manage their illness for Heart Failure Awareness Week.  

Heart failure happens when the organ stops performing as well as it should and develops difficulties pumping blood efficiently around the body. 

One mother of three diagnosed last year with heart failure said living every day is a fight with her "invisible disability". 

“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 Karen MacLaughlin. 

Despite the challenges posed by a heart failure diagnosis, and the shock that may result, the Irish Heart Foundation has said living with the condition is possible with the right supports. 

“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. 

Ms McNerney said the charity has worked with patients as young as 30 with their heart failure diagnosis and offered help throughout the changes to their daily lives. 

“We want to let these patients in Cork 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,” said Ms McNerney. 

Ms MacLaughlin said the social media community support offered by the charity has been of great help to her after her diagnosis. 

“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,” she said. 

The condition can occur independent of age, according to Dr Emer Joyce, a consultant cardiologist at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, with lifestyle factors such as diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, and lack of exercise fuelling an increased prevalence among young people. 

However, accessing the right supports coupled with medication and lifestyle changes can make the illness manageable, said the chair of the Irish Heart Foundation’s heart failure council.

“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.”

Dr Joyce recently wrote about her experience European Journal of Heart Failure for the  contracting the coronavirusand said as a patient and medic: "I feel as if I know less now than before this all started".

The heart medic said she had been diagnosed with a heart ailment one month after her Covid-19 diagnosis, several days after a malignant chest pain episode, and five weeks after general viral symptom onset.

Concerned about the long-term effects of Covid-19 infection, Dr Joyce has said a new understanding of the virus is emerging all the time. 

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