Serving up a healthy remedy


Treating your heart to an alternative, holistic approach could change your life, writes MICHELLE McDONAGH

‘THE DIFFERENCE between being alive or dead is a heartbeat, yet we pay so little attention to our heart health until we actually become ill. The best way to achieve whole body health is to keep our hearts healthy as the heart is the core organ and core muscle system of the body.”

So says well known Galway GP and medical herbalist Dr Dílis Clare who points out that one-third of all deaths in Ireland are caused by heart disease, as are one-fifth of premature deaths in those aged under 65 years.

However, the facts show that heart disease is preventable and medication is not always necessary when lifestyle changes are made to diet and exercise, she advises.

Clare and her team at the Integrated Health Clinic at Health and Herbs in Galway have developed a new natural approach to cardiovascular care which promises to enhance heart health, help clients avoid unnecessary medication and give a boost to their energy levels and vitality.

The Healthy Heart Programme was devised by Clare, who is president of the Irish Institute of Medical Herbalists and her team – Áine Delaney, SRN and acupuncturist; James Tonery, exercise physiologist; and Liz Nolan, nutritional therapist. The team describes the programme as being “proactive, preventative and progressive in contrast to the current pill-popping culture”.

“Customers and patients of mine have been asking for an alternative and more holistic approach to their cardiovascular health. With our educated population, people are no longer content to just take medication for blood pressure or cholesterol – they want to change their lifestyles to have a positive impact and to prevent problems arising further down the line,” Clare says.

The Healthy Heart Programme not only assesses the individual’s lifestyle and current medical condition but provides a personal eating plan as well as a suitable physical exercise routine.

The tests, using cutting edge technology, include B Pro testing, blood tests for cholesterol, blood count, vitamin D, thyroid and blood sugar levels along with exercise assessments of various muscle groups and flexibility which are specific for cardiovascular fitness.

A vital part of the programme, the B Pro test gives the central systolic blood pressure in the heart and, if used accurately by a medical practitioner, says Clare, can give an assessment of how elastic the small blood vessels are throughout the body.

The aim is to keep these vessels as elastic as possible for as long as possible to prevent ageing.

Clients who enrol on the programme have a scheduled appointment with each of the health professionals on the team. Guided by the reports from the assessments, Clare discusses the results and helps each client to prioritise lifestyle changes that will alter their heart risk profile.

A leading authority on integrating herbal and pharmacy-based medicine, Clare’s philosophy is integrating necessary pharmaceutical medication with natural medicines and holistic therapies.

“The programme has benefits for the entire family as once one member is educated about healthy eating and exercise, it tends to have an impact on the household. What goes into your shopping basket and onto your dinner table can make all the difference to the health of a family.”

The advice given must be appropriate to each client, their problem and their resources, notes Clare.

One client might be sent to their local pilates class or to do a cookery course while another may be advised to have regular massages for stress management or to read a particular self- help book.

Clare says, “We might advise 10 minutes’ meditation a day or joining a grow-your-own-garden group or painting classes. The mental aspect is as important as the physical aspect of the programme.

“After all, 50 per cent of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol and risk factors, but high stress levels.”

For further information on the Galway Healthy Heart Programme, contact the team at 087-7965070 or 091-583260 or go to

‘My diet is far better and my energy has greatly increased’

Galway businessman Pádraic O’Maille (51) decided to take action over his health when he found out he had high blood pressure during a routine GP appointment. There was heart disease in his family, but his greatest immediate concern was of having a stroke.

“I had the worst diet in the world, travelled a lot and, overall, my lifestyle was not healthy. My dad died of a coronary so I was really worried to find out I had high blood pressure.

“I had no particular interest in alternative health prior to this, but Dílis Clare had been on one of my courses so I asked her advice and decided to do the Healthy Heart Programme.”

After doing the programme and sticking to it, O’Maille’s blood pressure has stabilised, his cholesterol is significantly reduced but, more importantly for him, his mindset has been totally changed in relation to diet and exercise.

This has had an impact on his wife and three children, aged 18-23, due to changes in what goes into the shopping trolley – lots more vegetables and alkaline-based foods – and how food is prepared in the household.

Instead of exercising two to three times on a good week, O’Maille now exercises three to four times a week and found the team’s fitness guru, James Tonery, great at motivating him to “get off my butt”.

“My cardiovascular fitness test put me at an age of about 37 which is typically how a lot of trainers measure fitness.

“However, the B Pro test which measures the elasticity of the blood vessels put me at the fitness of a 57 year old which was not so good. I am now exercising more, my diet is far better and my energy has greatly increased.”

O’Maille is also taking a cardiovascular anti-ageing nutritional supplement called Revive Q10 which is made in the west of Ireland which he feels is really benefiting him.


of all deaths in Ireland are caused by heart disease, as are


of premature deaths in those aged under 65 years

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