People over 65 urged to ask doctor for annual stethoscope check

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Irish heart and stroke charity Croí is reminding all adults over the age of 65 years to ask their doctor for an annual stethoscope check.

The call comes in advance of International Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week from 12 to 18 September, which aims to improve diagnosis, treatment and management of heart valve disease.

Heart valve disease occurs when valves in the heart are damaged or not working properly, and despite this being a serious condition it is treatable.

As we age, symptoms like breathlessness, fatigue and dizziness could be signs of heart valve disease, and sometimes go undetected.

Regular checks for a heart murmur using a stethoscope could be the first step in the detection of heart valve disease. People experiencing these symptoms should ask their doctor for a stethoscope check.

Heart valve disease is common, serious, but treatable. Statistics show that one in eight people (13%) over the age of 75 are thought to suffer from moderate to severe heart valve disease, which can lead to premature death if left untreated.

Across the week, Croí will be hosting various events including free stethoscope checks to raise awareness of heart valve disease. In addition, a special webinar will take place on September 15 with expert speakers on heart valve disease.

The webinar will discuss the early signs and symptoms of heart valve disease and members of the public will have the opportunity to put their questions to Ms Sarah Early, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon at St James’s Hospital in Dublin and a patient who is living with heart valve disease. 

Speaking today, Croí CEO Neil Johnson said that the prevalence of heart valve disease is increasing due to our ageing population and that it has been described as ‘the next cardiac epidemic’.

He said that to address this, an annual stethoscope check needs to become a matter of routine for everyone over 65 years of age and particularly for anyone who is experiencing symptoms of heart valve disease.

“As we get older our heart often tries to send us a message and it is so important that we listen to it. Symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness or dizziness can all be signs of heart valve disease and can often go undetected.

“If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you need to ask your doctor for a stethoscope check, and if you are over 65 years old, having an annual stethoscope check could be the first step in the detection of heart valve disease.”

Neil Johnson said their research indicates that most people over 65 years in Ireland are not having regular stethoscope checks when they attend their GP.

“Even if symptoms are not present, an annual stethoscope for over 65s is a matter of good heart health routine,” he said.

Learn more and register now for the Croí webinar on heart valve disease – www.croi.ie/valveweek