Research into risk factors

With your support, our research has helped transform diagnosis and treatments for heart patients worldwide. It has also helped uncover many of the underlying factors that increase people’s risk of heart disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, genetic risk factors or a poor lifestyle. 

To ensure people feel the benefit of research, we’ve funded campaigns and initiatives that have helped millions of people reduce their risk of a potentially deadly heart attack or stroke. 

Targeting the biggest cause of heart disease

With evidence mounting for the factors that can lead to heart disease, Sir Charles George, our Medical Director from 1999 to 2004, was a driving force for our early work educating the public about the risks.

In 1999, Sir George secured £14 million from the Department of Health to fund arguably the UK’s hardest-hitting anti-smoking campaign, depicting a cigarette as an artery.

Our cigarette as an artery advert

A sustained lobbying campaign, funded in large part by the BHF, finally led to a UK-wide ban on smoking in public places in 2007. Smoking rates fell in the years that followed, as did smoking-related deaths caused by heart and circulatory disease. 

With one in five people still smoking in the UK in 2010, we took up the baton for the nation’s biggest anti-smoking campaign, No Smoking Day. Over the next five years we used the campaign to work with Stop Smoking Services across the country, inspiring nearly 5 million attempts to quit.

Today we’re still campaigning for a better quality of air. Our research has highlighted the clear link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease, and we will continue to influence decision-makers in local and national government to take action against this healthcare risk. Read our air pollution blog to find out more. 

Fighting health inequalities 

Death rates from coronary heart disease are up to three times higher in some of the UK’s most deprived communities, compared to some of the most affluent. However, when the BHF was established in 1961, heart disease was commonly stereotyped as a disease of the middle-aged, stressed out executive.

This perception began to be challenged in 1967 by the Whitehall II Study, funded in large part by the BHF. This study of 20,000 civil servants found that those in the lowest employment grades were likely to have a poorer lifestyle and die much younger than those at the top. 

Informed by the ongoing findings of this research, in 2009 the BHF launched a £9.5 million programme called Hearty Lives to tackle the nation’s health inequalities. By funding community programmes to tackle the root causes of heart health inequality – such as inactivity, smoking and a poor diet – the programme has helped tens of thousands of people lower their risk of heart disease. 

The research continues. In 2010, Sir Michael Marmot, the principle investigator of the Whitehall Study, published the Marmot Review which has shaped government policies on health inequality both in the UK and around the world. 

Informed by high-quality research, our support, information and campaigns are helping to prevent heart attacks and stroke on a daily basis.

With your continued support we can do even more