[N]orth Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust is helping to raise heart health awareness this European Heart Failure Awareness Day, Friday 5 May.
European Heart Failure Awareness Day is designed to raise awareness of heart failure, including possible symptoms, the importance of an early and accurate diagnosis, and the need for optimal treatment.
The Trust wants to support the day by making people aware of the symptoms of heart failure so they can get early treatment and improve their heart health.
Four heart failure nurses were appointed by the Trust in July 2016, who work cross-site at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven. They work with all wards to assess and review patients diagnosed with heart failure.
The specialist nurses review patients at an earlier stage in their illness and provide a management plan of care tailored to each individual patient, aiming to make sure they are on the right medications to improve their symptoms. They also provide education and ways for patients and their families to detect any early deterioration in their condition.
The service is led by Caroline Shaw, who was previously a sister in the Heart Centre at the Cumberland Infirmary since it opened in 2011 where she played a key role in setting up and developing successful cardiac services.
Caroline and her team also ensure patients have regular ongoing follow-up after discharge from hospital, working with GPs and community services to ensure this happens smoothly, in order to minimise readmissions to hospital.
The heart failure nurses will be hosting information stands in both hospitals next week in order to help raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of heart failure.
Heart failure is a serious medical condition where the heart does not pump blood around the body as well as it should. This means that your blood can’t deliver enough oxygen and nourishment to your body to allow it to work normally. This, for example, may cause you to feel tired or fatigued. It also means that you can’t eliminate waste products properly – leading to a build-up of fluid in your lungs and other parts of your body, such as your legs and abdomen.
Heart failure can develop at any age but becomes more common with increasing age. Around 1% of people under 65 years of age have heart failure, but 7% of 75-84-year-olds have heart failure and this increases to 15% in people older than 85. It is the most common cause of hospitalisation in patients over 65 years of age.
Although it is called heart ‘failure’, this doesn’t mean that your heart is about to stop working. It does mean that your heart is having difficulty working to meet the needs of your body (especially during activity).
Heart failure symptoms can vary widely from person to person, depending on the type of heart failure you have. Therefore, you may experience all the symptoms described here or just a few of them:
- Shortness of breath
- Weight gain
- Swollen ankles, legs or abdomen
If you have some or all of these symptoms book an appointment with your GP who will be able to send you for specialist assessment.
Caroline Shaw, heart failure specialist nurse lead, said: “Heart failure is a common illness and people should be aware of the early warning signs. It is a treatable condition and the earlier it is caught the better the outcome for the patient.
“If you, or someone you know, are experience any of the symptoms please get these checked as soon as possible.”
“We have a very experienced team of nurses working at the Trust enabling us to provide the high quality care and support that our heart failure patients need.”