January research highlights

3 February 2015        

Picture of Ben Kolb who is Senior Research Communications Officer at the BHF

Ben Kolb from the Research Communications team writes about some of our research highlights from January that you might have missed in a busy month.

It’s already February and everyone at the BHF is excited to Wear It. Beat It. on Friday. While you’re getting red-dy (sorry!), this is a great opportunity to look back on some exciting breakthroughs and news from January which remind us why fundraising on Friday is so important.

Improving heart attack diagnosis

The biggest news of the month was definitely the results of a University of Edinburgh study we funded, which showed that diagnosis rates of heart attacks in women could be doubled with a more sensitive test. 

The researchers found that, when using a standard test, just in one in ten women who came into hospital with chest pain were diagnosed with a heart attack. But it was one in five men.

Genetic testing breakthrough

But it wasn’t just in heart attack diagnosis where we funded a breakthrough. Researchers at Imperial College London made important progress towards a better genetic test for a heart muscle disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). DCM causes a person’s heart to become stretched and thin, making it less able to pump blood around the body. This can eventually lead to debilitating heart failure where the only solution is a heart transplant.

But early diagnosis of DCM means a person can be treated to help prevent their condition getting worse. We know that DCM can be inherited but an effective genetic test has been difficult to develop because some of the DNA faults associated with the condition are harmless. Through exhaustive analysis, the Imperial researchers have now sorted the harmful genetic mutations from the harmless.

Our Associate Medical Director described the findings as “extremely valuable for correct future diagnosis and treatment” of the condition. Genetic research we funded into another inherited heart muscle disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, has led to life saving genetic testing which is now available on the NHS. Learn about the new findings here.

Read about Simon and his family's battle with DCM in Heart Matters.

Further proof on statins

Patient with pills in handAnother area where research we funded has changed treatment is in lowering cholesterol using statins. A clinical trial in the 1990s showed clearly how statins reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. But there has still been doubt about whether statins are as effective for women as they are for men.

Last month that changed. Results of an exhaustive analysis of clinical trials that we helped to fund provided conclusive evidence that statin treatment does reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in women. Our Medical Director said that the results show “beyond any reasonable doubt that women gain the same benefits from statins as men.”

Unsure about statins? Find out more here.

Tackling high blood pressure

Person taking their blood pressureIn January we announced funding for an exciting collaboration with the Medical Research Council which could lead to improved treatment for people with high blood pressure. The researchers leading the study aim to develop a test which would ensure patients receive the right medication for their condition sooner rather than the current process which can involve trying different medicines until one works.

But it may be that some forms of high blood pressure could be treated without medication. A small study we funded at Queen Mary University of London found that beetroot juice effectively lowered high blood pressure. Beetroot juice contains lots of a chemical called nitrates, which is also found in leafy green vegetables, that help to lower blood pressure.

Wear It. Beat It.

And that's just the highlights from January. Every month researchers we fund are making important progress towards beating cardiovascular disease in its many forms. You make that progress possible. Make sure you Wear It. Beat It. on Friday to help us keep funding life saving research.

Wear It. Beat It.