What is cardiovascular disease?


It's a term for conditions which affect the heart and coronary circulation. The most common form is coronary heart disease, and its key causes are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and lack of physical activity. Having some of these risk factors is not uncommon so I would recommend that those in middle age have a health check from their GP because it's a simple thing to do and it can help identify those who need advice and potentially preventative treatments.


What have been the main treatment breakthroughs in recent years?


This is an area that is always evolving. Statin treatments for high cholesterol and high blood pressure medications have been successful in reducing the burden of coronary heart disease. Then there are pacemakers which can be used to treat advanced heart failure. These have come to the fore in the last 10 years — and have saved lives.


What about new treatments?


An alternative to statins is a new class of drug called PCSK9 Inhibitors, which look very promising. In terms of developments in the next decade, regenerative medicine is an exciting area and could help hearts pump properly again after a heart attack by harnessing stem cells to create new heart muscle, or improve existing muscle. Plus, genetic medicine will help us better understand the causes of cardiovascular disease and should lead to new treatments.


What's the key to finding better treatments in the future?


New treatments made possible by, for example, harnessing the potential of stem cells and genetics requires more research funding — which is the highest priority for the British Heart Foundation. With further research, new treatments to improve and save lives will follow.