Saturday 21 September 2019

Former Sunday Game host Lyster warns public to be wary of heart failure symptoms after multiple health scares

The former broadcaster said he initially ignored signs

Don’t ignore the signs: Former RTÉ presenter Michael Lyster is now heading a campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of heart failure
Don’t ignore the signs: Former RTÉ presenter Michael Lyster is now heading a campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of heart failure
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

Veteran RTE broadcaster Michael Lyster is urging the public not to ignore the signs of heart failure after he experienced a number of health scares that made him lucky to be alive.

The 64-year-old – who recently bowed out of The Sunday Game after 35 years - suffered heart failure in 2012, a mini stoke in 2013 and a potentially fatal cardiac arrest in 2015.

Former RTÉ Sunday Game presenter Michael Lyster, right, with panalists, from left, Colm O'Rourke, Joe Brolly and Pat Spillane
Former RTÉ Sunday Game presenter Michael Lyster, right, with panalists, from left, Colm O'Rourke, Joe Brolly and Pat Spillane

The former presenter is now heading a campaign with the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) to raise awareness of the symptom of heart failure which affects 90,000 people in Ireland. 

Seven years ago, when Mr Lyster first experienced shortness of breath, swollen ankles and fatigue, he decided to ignore them instead of seeking help. 

“At the end of the summer in 2012, I had been feeling unwell, but actually thought that I was picking up some sort of flu,” he told Morning Ireland. 

“If it had happened to me at a different time of the year, I might have been quicker to do something about it.”

As his conditions worsened, the former Sunday Game presenter decided to go to a heart specialist, who told him his heart was operating at just 15pc. 

“I didn’t really understand when he told me I had heart failure,” he added. 

RTÉ Sunday Game presenter Michael Lyster with the Sam Maguire Cup ahead of the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
RTÉ Sunday Game presenter Michael Lyster with the Sam Maguire Cup ahead of the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

“Then he said my heart was operating at 15pc and you don’t need to be a genius to figure out that wasn’t great.”

Mr Lyster was in hospital for three weeks. He lost four stone, and by his own admission "looked terrible".

The following year he had a mini-stroke, but yet again, he managed to bounce back.

Then on June 5, 2015, a near-tragedy struck when the RTE veteran had an episode of cardiac arrest. It was at this stage that his wife Ann took over and administered CPR until the ambulance arrived. 

It later emerged that Mr Lyster’s heart had simply stopped beating when the electrical impulses failed. The 64-year-old had a cardiac defibrillator inserted, which helps to regulate the heart's rhythm, and will shock it back into action should it stop beating again.

According to a survey carried out by the IHF, 46pc of people believe heart failure is similar to cardiac arrest.

A heart attack is when one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked. The heart muscle is robbed of its vital blood supply and, if left untreated, will begin to die because it is not getting enough oxygen.

A cardiac arrest is when a person's heart stops pumping blood around their body and they stop breathing normally.

However, the charity said heart failure is a “life-threatening condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood around the body, as the walls of the heart become too weak or too stiff to work properly."

It is calling on the public to take note of the symptoms associated with the “debilitating condition” which include shortness of breath, swollen ankles and fatigue.

A new website has also been launched, knowyourheart.ie, where members of the public can check if they are experiencing any heart failure symptoms. 

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