Research holds the key to cutting the devastation caused by heart attacks

3 July 2015        

Mike Knapton

Our Associate Medical Director, Dr Mike Knapton, responds to figures showing that the UK could be lagging behind other countries in survival rates from heart attacks.

A new report, covered widely in the media today, has claimed that although survival rates for heart attack and stroke are improving, the UK is still lagging behind many other developed countries when it comes to the number of people surviving these devastating events.  

As pointed out by the report’s authors (The Health Foundation and Nuffield Trust), comparisons like this should always be treated with caution, as methods for recording data vary from country to country. 

However, with around 480 people suffering a heart attack every day, there is still so much more we need to do to stop heart disease tearing families apart on a daily basis. 

At the BHF we believe funding research holds the answer to saving even more lives. 

50 years of progress

Research we’ve funded has been instrumental in improving people’s chances of surviving a heart attack over the last 50 years. BHF Professor Michael Davies was the first to identify blood clots as the cause of heart attacks in the 1970s.

This set the stage for BHF funded trials that led to the widespread use of clot busting drugs and aspirin that today help save the lives of people suffering heart attacks across the globe. 

Despite this progress, there are up to 175,000 heart attacks every year in the UK and 74,000 people lose their lives to coronary heart disease. Many of those who survive are left with debilitating heart failure that can make even basic tasks a struggle. 

Our research is fighting back

Earlier this year, BHF funded researchers from Edinburgh University showed that a new, high sensitivity blood test has the potential to double the diagnosis of heart attacks in women. 

Around 110,000 men and 65,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with a heart attack each year. But the proportion of men diagnosed with heart attacks has always been much higher than women. 

To see if diagnoses are being missed, BHF researchers evaluated the effectiveness of a blood test for troponin - a protein released from the heart during a heart attack - but with different sensitivity levels used for men and women. 

The researchers found that the new test doubled the diagnoses of heart attacks in women, bringing the proportion of women who were diagnosed with a heart attack in line with the diagnosis of men. Improving diagnosis could reduce the risk of women dying or suffering from heart attacks in future. 

With further funding from the BHF, the researchers will now carry out an even bigger clinical trial of over 26,000 patients to find out whether this improves the outcomes for patients.

This research is one of hundreds of projects we’re funding that could help us take the next step forward in finding new ways to improve and save the lives of people suffering from heart disease. 

Help us make the next breakthrough

All of this progress, and the promise of our current research programmes, has been made possible purely by the generous donations of the public and our supporters. 

With your continued support we’re committed to making the discoveries that will give everyone that suffers a heart attack in the UK the best possible chance of survival.