23% increase in heart failure patients since 2002

22 November 2017        

Category: Research

New research shows that heart failure is now as common in the UK as the four most common types of cancer combined. 

BHF Heart Failure Nurse helping a patient

A BHF heart failure nurse working with a patient

Researchers funded funded by the British Heart Foundation and National Institute for Health Research from The George Institute for Global Health at the University of Oxford, looked at the records of four million patients and found heart failure increased by 23% between 2002 and 2014. Their work is published today in The Lancet.

An ageing population 

The study found that the rise in heart failure is mainly caused by the increase in the number of older people in the UK. The number of people in the UK aged 65-69 rose by 36% between 2002 and 2014 as the ‘baby boomer’ generation reaches an age at which they are at greater risk of heart failure.

More than one problem

A striking finding of the study was that the number of diseases, as well as heart failure, which patients have when they are diagnosed with heart failure has significantly increased. Professor Rahimi, deputy director of The George Institute for Global Health UK explains that: 

“The number of diseases associated with heart failure was high, and increased over time. This suggests that as the number of patients with heart failure grows, caring for them is also becoming more complex, increasing the burden on health services.”

During the period covered by the study the proportion of patients suffering three or more additional conditions rose from 68% to 87%.

An unequal picture

The research found that the poorest people in Britain are 60% more likely to be affected by heart failure than the wealthiest. Less well off patients are an average of 3.5 years younger when diagnosed with heart failure and are also more likely to have other health problems. 

This contrast between the health of the wealthiest and poorest areas in the UK is so stark that lead researcher Nathalie Conrad explains:

“If we could achieve the incidence rates we see among the most affluent groups for the population as a whole, we would observe a fall of about one-fifth or nearly 32,000 fewer cases every year.”

Commenting on the publication of the study Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation explains:

“Heart failure is a cruel and debilitating illness affecting nearly a million people across the UK, with sufferers in severe cases often having poorer survival rates than many cancers.

Currently, heart failure is incurable and difficult to treat, and the number of people living with it is increasing. This study highlights the urgent need for more to be done to end the postcode lottery in heart failure incidence.”