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Why more needs to be done to reduce heart attack deaths in the UK

The news that there were 33,000 avoidable deaths following heart attacks in England and Wales is truly shocking and highlights the epidemic of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the UK. According to new research published last week in the European Heart Journal, six in seven of the 40,000 non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) heart attack patients a year miss out on at least one of the treatments that have been proven to reduce the risk of having another attack.

A heart attack shouldn’t mean a death sentence, especially as the UK is home to some of the world’s most renowned cardiologists and innovative research. Heart attack patients and those at risk of a heart attack or stroke should routinely receive high-quality care. This includes health professionals explaining the full range of treatment options available, including the effective use of statins, as well as providing expert advice on lifestyle changes patients can make to reduce their chances of suffering another heart attack or stroke.

Of course, the research also highlights the scale of CVD in the UK more generally, and the need to reduce the number of people who experience heart attacks in the first place. Despite high-profile public health campaigns in recent years aimed at reducing key risk factors such as obesity and inactivity, in 2014 CVDs were still the second most common cause of death in the UK, with an approximate total of 155,000 deaths, including 39,000 from strokes. That means CVDs represent 27 per cent of all deaths in the UK, just behind cancer at 29 per cent.

Clearly more needs to be done both in the UK and globally, particularly as the UK is one of the UN member states committed to meeting the WHO’s target to reduce premature deaths from CVD by at least 25 per cent by 2025. Globally CVDs are responsible for over 17 million deaths each year.

This is why the World Heart Federation is convening researchers, policymakers and health leaders from around the world at the World Congress of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Health, in Mexico City in June. High profile speakers from the UK include Professor David Wood, President-Elect of the World Heart Federation and Garfield Weston Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Imperial College London; Sir Richard Peto, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at Oxford; and , and Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The latest research into all aspects of cardiovascular health will be presented at the Congress, including real-life solutions on how to best prevent cardiovascular disease and treat heart attacks. We look forward to welcoming speakers and delegates to the Congress from the UK and beyond.

UK delegates may, for example, be particularly interested in the ‘The Halfdan Mahler lecture: From policy to action’, presented by Pekka Puska, Past President of the WHF. For 25 years Pekka was the director and principal investigator of the North Karelia Project for prevention of cardiovascular diseases in North Karelia, Finland, while also serving in leadership roles at the World Health Organization and Government of Finland. The Karelia project is widely seen as a model for successful population-based prevention of cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases.

Furthermore, we’ll also be presenting our latest CVD roadmaps – designed to support policy-makers to implement proven strategies to help reduce CVDs in their own countries and translate policy into action. We believe that by convening international experts and sharing this knowledge in this way, we can together, meet WHO’s vital targets of overall CVD mortality reduction by 2025. We know what to do – now is the time to take action.

For more information about the World Heart Federation’s World Congress of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Health please visit:www.worldcardiocongress.org

Johanna Ralston
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