Scientists confirm common cause of heart failure in African-Caribbean patients

27 October 2016        

Category: Research

Woman looking into the distance

Researchers we funded have confirmed a common cause of heart failure in African-Caribbean people, suggesting that diagnosis and treatment of heart failure should be personalised based on ethnicity.

The lead researcher, Dr Jason Dungu of St George's, University of London, says their findings suggest that doctors should consider ethnicity when making decisions about diagnosis and treatment of heart failure.

The findings

The study, published in the journal Circulation Heart Failure, looked at almost 1,400 people with heart failure in St George’s Hospital heart failure clinic over seven years. Of these, 211 were African-Caribbean. 

They found that coronary heart disease, the most common cause of heart failure in white patients (41 per cent), was the cause of heart failure in only 13 per cent of African-Caribbean patients.

Highlighting an important condition

On the other hand, the study discovered that a rare condition called cardiac amyloidosis is the fourth most common cause of heart failure in people of African-Caribbean descent, accounting for more than 11 per cent of heart failure cases in patients over the age of 65. This is compared to only 1.6 per cent in white patients.

Amyloidosis is a condition in which abnormal deposits of a protein, called amyloid, build up. This can take place in the heart, a disorder known as cardiac amyloidosis, which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood effectively around the body.

The team also found that the chance of survival in patients with heart failure due to cardiac amyloidosis is poorer than it is in people who develop heart failure as a result of coronary heart disease, suggesting that those with amyloidosis should have closer follow-up.

What does this mean?

Dr Jason Dungu, the lead researcher on the BHF-funded study at St George’s, University of London, said:

"This research highlights the importance of tailoring cardiac investigations and treatment to the patient, according to age, gender and ethnicity, ensuring that a personalised approach is used in different patient populations."

Find out more about ethnicity and heart disease risk.

Help us to fund more vital research

The BHF is the leading independent funder of cardiovascular research in the UK, but this is only made possible by donations and support from the public.