Heart Failure Awareness Day, an initiative of the European Society of Cardiology  is designed to raise awareness about the importance of recognising Heart Failure, getting an accurate diagnosis and receiving optimal treatment

Heart Failure Patient Educational Resource launched at the meeting

Heart Failure in Ireland

Heart failure is a serious condition affecting 90,000 people in Ireland. There are another 160,000 people living with impending heart failure. Heart failure causes up to three times as many deaths as advanced cancers like bowel and breast cancer and is the number one reason for hospitalisation in the over 65s. Despite all of this heart failure awareness is worryingly low. One in three Irish people mistake heart failure symptoms with the normal signs of aging. One in four Irish people wait a week or more to seek medical advice when experiencing symptoms of heart failure1. Fewer than one in 10 people can identify three common symptoms of heart failure and these Irish figures emphasise how important it is for the public to learn more about the condition.

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Heart failure prevalence is increasing, affecting 2% of the population on the island of Ireland, with numbers set to grow as the population ages and associated conditions, in particular diabetes, become more prevalent.  The cost of heart failure approximates one billion euro across the island, driven primarily by hospital bed days numbering in excess of 230,000 bed days from emergency hospitalisation in the Republic of Ireland in 2012 alone.

Irish Cardiac Society calls for rapid community Heart Failure diagnosis

Professor Ken McDonald, President of the Irish Cardiac Society, has called for rapid Community Heart Failure Diagnosis to mark European Heart Failure Awareness Day, May 6th 2016.

“Although traditionally regarded as having a poor prognosis with little therapies to improve outlook, recent advances in heart failure therapies have dramatically changed this and led to much better quality of life and longer lives for people with heart failure” said Prof McDonald, a consultant cardiologist specialising in heart failure . “However, the critical first step for many of our patients in the community is rapid access to an accurate diagnosis and the definition of a care strategy following consultation between the general practitioner and the cardiologist”.

“At present this is compromised by difficulties experienced by our General Practitioners in getting access to important diagnostic tests and specialist opinion, leading to people with heart failure not receiving access to these life-changing therapies. A 6 month delay in diagnosis is estimated to lead to a 23% increase in emergency hospitalisation for people with suspected heart failure”.

To highlight this issue the Irish Cardiac Society established a North South GP / Specialist Working group who have agreed an approach to community diagnosis of this condition, which they feel should be universally available on the island of Ireland and which emphasies the  importance of access to diagnostic tests for heart failure. The Irish Cardiac Society encourages all involved in providing resources in health care on the island to work towards achieving specific goals over the next 12-24 months.

The society believes that ensuring rapid access to relevant diagnostics within a 2-6 week period, dependent on the severity of presentation, and subsequent specialist opinion within a further 4 weeks, will be a marked improvement on current delays which today can be in excess of 1 year.  This would result in speedy accurate diagnosis, careful planning of a treatment plan and significant reduction in subsequent Emergency Department attendance and emergency hospitalisation.

About Diagnostic Tests for Heart Failure

The main diagnostic tests required for this pathway are natriuretic peptides (a blood test) and echocardiography (an ultrasound scan of the heart).  Natriuretic peptides are proteins produced when the heart is under stress or strain.  A normal natriuretic peptide means that the GP need not send the patient for echocardiography and reduces demand on this service by 30%.  Echocardiography is an ultrasound of the heart which allows the doctor to see if there are abnormalities of structure or function of the heart consistent with heart failure and is essential to confirm the diagnosis and guide treatment.  Lack of access or delays in accessing these tests from the community leads to delays in diagnosis and emergency hospitalisations for this condition.

About the Irish Cardiac Society

The Irish Cardiac Society is the professional society in Ireland for those whose primary interest is in the practice of Cardiology, Cardiovascular Surgery and Cardiovascular Research.    www.irishcardiacsociety.com

About the North South GP / Specialist Care Initiative

The North South GP/Specialist Care Initiative is a working group of the Irish Cardiac Society involving general practitioners and cardiologists from  both from the Republic and Northern Ireland and cardiologists from both regions as well. The purpose of this group is to advise and discuss matters of mutual importance relating to Cardiovascular Disease, striving to improve the links between primary and secondary care.

European Heart Failure Awareness Day, the platform to launch “Keep It Pumping”

The “Keep It Pumping” campaign was officially launched today, European Heart Failure Awareness Day, to raise awareness of heart failure and the importance of recognising heart failure symptoms. The event which is being held in Dundrum Town Centre from the 6th – 8th May, is supported by The Heartbeat Trust and Croí and sponsored by Novartis.

The “Keep It Pumping” campaign aims to raise awareness of heart failure and its symptoms. We are encouraging people to donate their heartbeats in support of heart failure awareness. The “Keep It Pumping” app is available to download for free and lets you record and save your “heartbeat”. It also aims to raise awareness of the symptoms of heart failure and encourages people to seek medical advice if they or a family member are experiencing these symptoms. Common symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, low energy, swelling of the feet and ankles and coughing/wheezing.

In addition the Heart Failure Patient Alliance, founded by the Heartbeat Trust and Croí, is launching comprehensive heart failure education materials to support people who are living with heart failure and their carers, with the support of Novartis. This includes; practical advice on living with heart failure, helpful tips and advice from Irish people living with heart failure, their families, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and dieticians.

Professor Ken McDonald, Consultant Cardiologist, Medical director of The Heartbeat Trust and National Clinical Lead for Heart Failure, said; “Education plays a huge role in disease prevention and management. The burden of heart failure is enormous from both societal and economic perspectives. Everyone needs to be better informed about heart failure: from symptoms and prevalence, to consequences and what can be done about it. Our aim is to help to reduce the burden of heart failure through the provision of educational material. To access this material visitwww.heartbeat-trust.ie or www.croi.ie/heart-failure-resources.”

Neil Johnson, CEO, Croí said; “It is important that people can recognise heart failure symptoms and if suffering from them speak to their GP at their next appointment. The most common symptoms of heart failure are; shortness of breath or trouble breathing, fatigue, swollen feet or ankles.”

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Loretto Callaghan, Managing Director, Novartis Ireland said, “Research conducted by Novartis in Ireland clearly shows that the awareness of health failure symptoms, is worryingly low, with most people mistaking the symptoms to be signs of aging. The only way we can start to tackle and manage the condition, is by raising awareness and uniting to improve the lives of those living with it.”

“Novartis is proud to support the Keep It Pumping campaign to help people identify symptoms of heart failure early, so they can act immediately to ensure that they will have an earlier diagnosis leading to better outcomes. For people already diagnosed with heart failure we are delighted to support the Heart Failure Patient Alliance to bring education and support to patients and their carers ensuring they are empowered and informed enough to manage their condition effectively.”