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Cardiovascular Health Q1 2023

Saving lives by changing the trajectory of heart failure

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Lynn Mackay-Thomas

Chief Executive Officer, British Society for Heart Failure

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the UK and globally, accounting for about a third of lives lost each year. Everyone knows someone who has — or had — a ’heart problem.’ They may or may not call it heart failure. We are at a crucial point in time to address this problem.

Over 1 million people in the UK have heart failure, with 200,000 new diagnoses every year. Estimates suggest there are a further 385,000 people with heart failure who are currently undetected and undiagnosed and, consequently, missing out on life-preserving treatments. These numbers are on the rise due to several factors including the exponential growth in population anticipated in the next 25 years.

The need to manage heart failure

Heart failure is not only a primary endpoint for almost all cardiovascular diseases but also a significant cause of mortality across the wider cardiorenal-metabolic spectrum (which includes conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease). And from epidemiology to pathophysiology, there are overlaps with many other organ systems and clinical specialities.

Currently, in the UK, 80% of heart failure is diagnosed in hospitals but 40% of people had symptoms that should have triggered an earlier assessment in primary care. Heart failure takes up 2% of the entire NHS budget. The human and economic costs are huge.

Heart failure takes up 2% of the entire NHS budget.

The F words: common symptoms of heart failure

Identifying people at risk of developing heart failure and intervening early is key to the long-term management of cardiovascular diseases. Identified early, we can make a huge difference in the lives of those with heart failure.

We have the tools and expertise to manage heart failure well. We need you to look out for the common symptoms of heart failure — the ‘F words’: ‘fighting for breath,’ ‘fatigue’ and ‘fluid retention.’ If you recognise any of these in yourself or your loved ones, seek medical help early. A simple blood test (NTproBNP) can be used to rule out heart failure or indicate the need for further tests.

Despite growing success due to scientific breakthroughs and increasing awareness and understanding, we must change the trajectory of heart failure, which will lead to sustainable wins across other diseases.

Collaboration to reduce heart failure deaths

We cannot rely on government plans, which are vulnerable to seemingly constant change and short-termism. By working together with allied organisations and looking through the lens of our population’s health, we can accelerate action towards reducing deaths due to heart failure in the next 25 years.

As a collective, we will leverage our reach, infrastructure and human capacity to build a more equitable, inclusive, prosperous and sustainable future for all those in danger of dying from heart failure, regardless of circumstances.

Together, we can turn the tide on this life-limiting condition and benefit our communities. To achieve this, we intend to:

  1. Commit to taking collective action for change
  2. Bring together our specialist knowledge and professional expertise
  3. Support implementation through localised communities
  4. Embed better prevention programmes and early detection to improve population health

This month, March 2023, we commit to uniting as leaders towards a common goal — to reduce heart failure deaths by 25% in 25 years. Beginning with agreeing on the priorities at a summit meeting, together, we can save lives.

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