A group of local heart heroes are asking the public to support a new campaign tackling cardiovascular diseases this Christmas.
Heart Strong is a new service being developed by Northern Ireland’s leading ‘heart-health’ charity, NI Chest, Heart and Stroke (NICHS).
It aims to provide a new rehabilitation bridge between leaving hospital and returning to normal life for patients with heart disease.
The 11 local heroes — including community fund-raisers, cardiac consultants and those living with heart disease — are encouraging the public to help raise funds for the service, which aims to be piloted in early 2020.
More than one in six people here live with a chest, heart or stroke condition and research from the charity shows depression is more common in those living with a long-term health condition.
The new Heart Strong service hopes to help rebuild the confidence and lives of the tens of thousands in Northern Ireland living with heart disease, by reintroducing them to physical activity in a supportive environment.
Rowley Davidson from Bangor is one of NICHS’s ‘Heart Heroes’ and was diagnosed with heart disease at Christmas in 2017.
He was quick to praise the beneficial support he had received from the charity during his recovery.
He said: “When the doctors told me I had heart failure I didn’t know anything about the condition.
“I just heard the word ‘failure’ and thought it was just a matter of my heart deteriorating with no future ahead of me.
“My son contacted NI Chest Heart and Stroke, and my wife Brenda and I attended the Taking Control Programme. After just half a session, I was more confident and more positive.
“I understood that there was life after a heart failure diagnosis. Now, we go to pilates and are back with our church’s street ministry, living life together again.
“We need to spread the word of the great work NICHS is doing in Northern Ireland, and the ambitions the team has to continue to lead the fight against heart disease.
“I hope the public joins us this Christmas, and beyond, and we recruit even more local heart heroes”.
The Christmas campaign will involve plenty of festive frolics for the public to get involved in, with NICHS encouraging people to create their own holiday fund-raiser to raise money for the Local Heart Heroes.
Declan Cunnane, chief executiveof NICHS said: “We are so proud of the Local Heart Heroes who not only use our services but wholly support the work we are doing to fight heart disease.
“This campaign is so important because it shows the reality that heart conditions can affect almost anyone in our society and reinforces the need for better research and improved services.
“The public can support the Local Heart Heroes Christmas campaign by visiting the dedicated web page, donating online or texting LOCALHEARTS to 70085 to donate £5”.
More information about the campaign can be found on: nichs.org.uk/support-us/support-us-this-christmas