Nine in ten heart patients live with other long-term conditions, increasing their risk of dying

17 July 2018        

Category: Research

Nine in ten people with coronary heart disease in the UK are living with at least one other long-term condition, such as stroke, dementia and high blood pressure, according to new figures we’ve released today.

Female swimmer whose heart and circulatory system is lit up

Our analysis reveals that 90% of people living with coronary heart disease have at least one other long-term condition, while six in ten have at least three. Numerous studies have shown that living with multiple conditions significantly increases the risk of early death.

The growing number of people living with inter-related health conditions – or multi-morbidities – represents a grave challenge for our health system, which is focused on treating individual illnesses.

Inter-related conditions

The analysis reveals that the most common comorbidity for people living with coronary heart disease is high blood pressure, which affects over half of patients. This is followed by:

  • 26% of heart patients have diabetes
  • 14% of heart patients have had a stroke
  • 13% of heart patients are living with heart failure
  • 5% of heart patients have dementia

People with coronary heart disease, including those who have suffered a heart attack, are more than twice as likely to suffer a stroke or develop vascular dementia.

The findings come as new research shows there was a fourfold increase – from 6.4% to 24.3% - in the number of patients with heart and circulatory diseases living with five or more additional illnesses from 2000 to 2014. The reasons for this are poorly understood and not fully accounted for by an aging population.

We need to reverse this trend

Urgent research is needed to improve our understanding of how conditions like stroke and vascular dementia are connected, and to develop new treatments for people living with multiple conditions.

Simon Gillespie, our Chief Executive, said: “Over the years we’ve made huge progress in improving survival rates for single conditions like heart attacks with BHF-funded research leading the way. However, today’s figures point towards an emerging and very urgent challenge.

“For example, increasing numbers of people are surviving heart attacks, but are going on to suffer strokes or live with additional conditions like vascular dementia. These conditions limit people’s quality of life, increase their risk of dying and will place increasing pressure on the health and care system across the UK.

“We can only reverse this trend by funding more research into all conditions of the heart and circulatory system, with a focus on how they can be treated together. This type of research is currently chronically under-funded but, with more support, we can fund innovative approaches to tackle these conditions head on. This could ensure millions of people don’t have to spend years of their life suffering from several long-term debilitating conditions, or worse, dying from them.”

The figures have been released as we launch a new campaign appealing for support for our world leading research in to all heart and circulatory conditions including research into a heart attacks, stroke, vascular dementia and diabetes.

Find out more about the conditions we’re researching and how they are connected