A joined-up plan to tackle heart disease is the answer

The power of research can give those with heart failure hope for a better quality of life, says James Cant
More than 45,000 people in Scotland have been diagnosed with heart failure. Picture: PAMore than 45,000 people in Scotland have been diagnosed with heart failure. Picture: PA
More than 45,000 people in Scotland have been diagnosed with heart failure. Picture: PA

More than 45,000 people in Scotland have been diagnosed with heart failure, according to our latest statistics.

It’s a debilitating and frightening condition, most commonly caused by a heart attack, which causes damage to the heart muscle that can never be repaired. This means a person’s heart fails to pump blood around the body efficiently, leaving many sufferers in a constant fight for a good quality of life. Symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath and fluid retention.

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Sadly, up to a third of patients admitted to hospital with heart failure will die within 12 months.

And while there is medication to manage the condition and control symptoms, there is currently no cure. The only hope for some people with severe heart failure is a heart transplant. Those with mild or moderate heart failure may be able to live a more normal life with the right medication.

The BHF is the largest funder of heart research in Scotland and we’re currently spending nearly £62 million. But we urgently need more research into heart failure in Scotland to help those thousands of sufferers.

People like David Smith who suffered a heart attack and went on to develop severe heart failure. He is now on the heart transplant list.

David’s only 53 but he’s had to give up work and he can only walk about 20 metres until he’s totally out of breath and has to stop.

Through our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal, the BHF is funding Professor David Newby and his team at the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Edinburgh to explore a range of approaches to understand the consequences of heart failure and to help discover new approaches to its treatment.

Tackling heart failure has to be a collaborative approach, not least where pharmacists work in partnership with the medical and nursing professions. And this point was driven home to me when I met heart failure pharmacist Paul Forsyth on Tuesday.

Paul is one of the most forward-thinking people working in his field in the UK – and we were delighted to recognise this by naming him our ‘Heart Hero in Innovation’ at our annual supporter conference at the University of Glasgow on Tuesday.

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His team provides a specialist service for people in Glasgow who have Left Ventricular Systolic Dysfunction after a heart attack. Such people often develop heart failure symptoms at a later stage. His team supports them to take the right medication which can help delay the onset of heart failure symptoms – and can help improve their quality of life and life expectancy.

Following a NHS Education for Scotland funded pilot study, led by Dr Clare Murphy, Consultant Cardiologist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, and Paul, this innovative collaborative pharmacist-led service is now in place in six locations across Glasgow. The beauty of this service is that it links in with health professionals, such as cardiologists, heart failure nurses and GPs, providing an all-round better journey for the patient.

Through the power of research we want to give hope and a better quality of life to people with debilitating conditions like heart failure, and give hope to their loved ones too.

Find out more about heart failure and the BHF’s life saving research at bhf.org.uk/findthecure.

• James Cant, Director, British Heart Foundation Scotland