Thousands of people at risk of preventable heart attacks and strokes

20 February 2018        

Category: Survival and support

New report in partnership with the Stroke Association and Public Health England highlights areas for improvement around hypertension and atrial fibrillation. 

Person getting blood pressure checked

New data shows that detection and treatment of high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation (AF), both risk factors for stroke and heart attack, are falling behind current NICE guidelines. The charities are joining forces to warn that hundreds of thousands of people across England are at high risk of preventable strokes and heart attacks.

How Can We Do Better?

We have produced two reports, entitled ‘Blood Pressure: How Can We Do Better?’ and ‘AF: How Can We Do Better?’ The reports aim to help Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and GPs improve stroke and heart attack prevention, detection and treatment across England. They break down the data into tailored packs for every CCG, highlighting local opportunities for development.

Lack of awareness costing lives

The reports show that an estimated 1.4 million people in England have AF, yet almost a quarter of people are unaware that they have the condition.  AF is an irregular heartbeat which increases the risk of stroke five-fold. The data shows that 19% of people who are diagnosed with AF, and are eligible for anticoagulation medication, are not given the treatment, despite recommendations in current NICE guidelines.

The report also estimates that nearly 5.7m people in England have undiagnosed high blood pressure, which raises the risk of heart disease or stroke by up to three times. The data also reveals that one in three people who are diagnosed with high blood pressure are not treated to the clinical blood pressure targets recommended by NICE and that there is significant variations of identification and treatment, across the UK. 

Urgent need to address growing number of people undiagnosed

Jenny Hargrave, our Director of Innovation in Health and Wellbeing, said: “There are over 8 million people diagnosed with high blood pressure in England, with well over a million of these people not being treated to target. In addition, 4 in 10 people with high blood pressure remain undiagnosed. There is an urgent need to address this growing epidemic through better detection and treatment.

“Hypertension is often referred to as a silent killer, as most people with high blood pressure don’t experience any symptoms. Once diagnosed, people can take action to lower their blood pressure and reduce their risk of a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke. Not only does this have vast patient benefits but the cost saving to the health service could be significant, with diseases caused by the condition costing the NHS an estimated £2 billion every year.”

The latest  ‘AF: How can we do better?’ and the ‘Blood Pressure: How can we do better?’ reports were created using data from the 2016/17 Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), Public Health England (PHE), Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP) and the National Cardiovascular Intelligence Network.

View the report