Heart disease affects 74,000 people in Northern Ireland, and over 17,000 here are living with heart failure.

Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke is your local charity, leading the fight against chest, heart and stroke illnesses with the aim of supporting those living with these life changing conditions and prevent others from becoming ill. Offering practical and emotional support to individuals and families at what can be a difficult time in their lives, NICHS support services aim to enhance quality of life and increase independence and confidence.

Heart Strong will be NI Chest Heart and Stroke’s new heart health and recovery service which will be piloted in early 2020. The first of its kind and wholly dedicated to those living with heart disease in Northern Ireland, it will bridge the gap between rehabilitation after treatment and getting back to normal life, helping the person grow beyond their current capabilities.

The Heart Strong heart health and recovery programme is designed to be inclusive of anyone who experiences cardiac illness, whether that is a congenital condition or an acquired condition. This initial pilot will focus on individuals aged 18+ in the South Eastern Trust area, living with a heart condition, and who have completed Cardiac Rehab with their local cardiac rehab team.

Heart Strong is an aspirational 12 week programme, designed to build upon cardiac rehabilitation and to support participants to continue to grow beyond their current abilities, fitness levels, confidence and self-belief and to provide that support for as long as it is needed, whether that be physically, emotionally or mentally.

Research shows that Depression is 2-3 times more common in people with a long term physical health problem [i] and it can delay an improvement in a physical health condition or make it worse[ii]. Therefore, the first two weeks of working with clients have been dedicated to a part of the programme called ‘Head Strong’, a light and relaxed education programme that will teach practical techniques to help calm the worry and anxiety that can come from living with a heart condition and give back the confidence and reassurance needed to live life to the absolute fullest for those living with Heart Disease. This programme will also be available to family members or carers.

Working in partnership with the Cardiac Specialist Exercise team at Platinum Training Institute, the remaining 10 weeks of the programme will be dedicated to the ‘Heart Strong’ exercise and relaxation programme. We are all made unique, and because of that we are all sewn together slightly differently, so this programme will teach the same basic fundamentals to all, but every aspect will be adaptable to the needs, ability and aspirations of every individual who takes part and they will be part of a group of people with similar shared experiences, fitness levels and abilities. There will be a low intensity group for those who may be at the early stages of their recovery, and a higher functioning group for those who have progressed to this level or are ready to step back into exercising independently.

This 10 weeks of exercise has been expertly designed by Platinum Training Institute and will always be delivered by one of their BACPR Level 4 Cardiac Specialist Exercise Instructors.

For more information contact Hannah Williamson, NI Chest Heart and Stroke


[ii] NICE Clinical Guidelines (CG91): Depression in adults with a chronic physical health problem: recognition and management. Information for the public.