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Emer Burke

Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Galway University Hospitals & Galway Integrated Heart Failure Service PRO, Irish Association of Heart Failure Nurses

Emer Burke is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in heart failure, working as part of the integrated heart failure service in Galway. Emer is also Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Irish Association of Heart Failure Nurses (IAHFN).

For World Heart Day (29th September), the IAHFN are seeking to raise awareness about heart failure with their ‘Let’s Bump up the Pump’ campaign. This campaign focuses on raising awareness about heart failure signs and symptoms. It also signposts individuals to take action towards earlier detection and treatment. The IAHFN also supports patient education on how to live well with this condition.  

Nurses advocating for heart failure awareness 

Emer explains: “Heart failure can be an alarming diagnosis, and many do not understand the term. Heart failure is a condition where the heart fails to pump or relax well enough to circulate sufficient blood to meet the body’s needs. As a consequence, affected individuals can complain of breathlessness on exertion or even at rest, as well as swollen legs and tiredness.

“It is a serious condition. Left untreated, heart failure can be as deadly as cancer — but there is good treatment out there. The key is in early diagnosis and treatment to reduce death and disability from this disease. Attending your GP for a simple blood test called NT-proBNP can support diagnosis.”

Patients can live well with Heart
failure if diagnosed and treated early.

Why heart failure is a cause for concern in Ireland

Heart failure can happen for several reasons, but it is more common in older people and those with heart disease and high blood pressure. It affects about 2% of the population, rising to 10% in older age groups.

Worryingly, there are many more who remain undiagnosed. Heart failure cases are expected to rise due to ageing, increasing prevalence of obesity, diabetes and surviving longer due to improved cardiac treatments.

Educating people in Ireland about heart failure

The ‘Let’s Bump up the Pump’ campaign aims to raise awareness to ensure earlier detection of those who are at risk of heart failure. The campaign also highlights the signs and symptoms of heart failure — to bump up the number of people seeking an earlier diagnosis, knowledge of living with the condition and, ultimately, bump up survival.

Steps to a heart failure diagnosis

For people who are worried that they have heart failure, Emer insists: “Anyone concerned about symptoms of heart failure, contact your GP for an assessment. Ask about the NT-ProBNP test.

“The earlier you get diagnosed, the earlier treatment can begin — which can potentially alter the course of this serious disease. With treatment, you can live well with heart failure. Remember: ‘Ankles swollen, tired and out of puff — an NT-proBNP test is just the stuff’.”

[1] .Groenewegen A, Rutten FH, Mosterd A, et al. Epidemiology of heart failure. Eur J Heart Fail. 2020 Aug;22(8):1342-56.
[2] Savarese G, Becher PM, Lund LH, et al. Global burden of heart failure: a comprehensive and updated review of epidemiology. Cardiovasc Res. 2023 Jan 18;118(17):3272-87.

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