Serious misconceptions and knowledge gaps exist around heart failure, according to a survey conducted by the patient-led charity Pumping Marvellous with support from St. Jude Medical.1
It found that, although one in five people in the UK currently live with heart failure, only 49 per cent of those surveyed could identify swelling as one of the main symptoms of heart failure, while the vast majority confused it with a symptom of heart attack.
The study also found that one in five believed heart failure was a silent condition with no symptoms and many mistakenly thought it only effects older generations.
Heart failure is a serious chronic condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s oxygen needs. It can affect all ages and the most common symptoms, which can vary from person to person, include a combination of fatigue, breathlessness and swelling.
It is caused by the heart failing to pump enough blood at the right pressure and usually occurs because the heart muscle has become too weak or stiff to work properly. The causes of heart failure are varied, but the most common are coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and diseases of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), which can sometimes be genetic.
Although there is no cure for heart failure, symptoms can be managed through medication or medical devices, so many individuals are able to continue to live full and active lives.
“It’s important for people to understand the symptoms and causes of heart failure, as undiagnosed heart failure can lead to serious health consequences,” says Nick Hartshorne-Evans, founder and chief executive of Pumping Marvellous. “Increasing awareness of heart failure and treatment options will ensure those at risk seek professional help as early as possible to help manage their condition.”
Heart failure is an increasingly common disease with the UK, Germany and France spending £7.2 billion on treating heart failure in 2010.2
Reassuringly, the survey found that 80 per cent understood that lifestyle factors, such as obesity, smoking, stress and lack of exercise, could increase the chances of developing heart failure, but 37 per cent still believed heart failure was a result of bad luck and nothing can be done to prevent it.
Professor Martin Cowie, consultant cardiologist and professor of cardiology at Imperial College London, comments: “It’s encouraging to see there is some understanding that lifestyle choices are a factor in the occurrence of heart failure. Healthy lifestyle changes and developments in treatment options give hope that many people with heart failure can still lead full lives. It’s therefore important they and their carers fully understand the condition, so they can work with their doctor to manage it properly.”
St. Jude Medical, a leading global medical device manufacturer dedicated to transforming the treatment of some of the world’s most expensive epidemic diseases, specialises in developing cost-effective medical technologies that save and improve lives of patients around the world.
“Understanding heart failure is the first step in opening a dialogue between a patient and their doctor to get the right treatment,” says Dr Mark Carlson, vice president of global clinical affairs and chief medical officer at St. Jude Medical.
“While it is concerning that half of the UK population are not aware of the symptoms associated with heart failure, we are committed to supporting charities such as Pumping Marvellous to raise awareness of the condition and helping physicians educate their patients on treatment options, in an effort to help them live life to the fullest.”
Learn more about heart failure symptoms and solutions at heartfailureanswers.co.uk
1 Pumping Marvellous Heart Failure Awareness Survey, June 2016: undertaken by Innovationbubble.eu on behalf of Pumping Marvellous, supported by an unrestricted educational grant from St. Jude Medical
2 Hobbs, R. (2010) Clinical burden and health service challenges of chronic heart failure: British Journal of General Practice, 60(577), 611–615