England Sets Sights on Heart Health

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England has a plan.  It’s comprehensive, long term and aimed at preventing 150,000 heart attacks and strokes over the next 10 years.  How? By, among other measures, reducing high cholesterol, hypertension and atrial fibrillation.

Recently released by the National Health Service, England’s “Long-Term Plan” outlines national health strategies for a variety of national health needs – from better health services for children to improved cancer treatments.  It prioritizes prevention and preventive care.

The ambitious document, and the shift in thinking that it conveys, could be particularly valuable for the cardiovascular community.  

Cardiovascular disease impacts 6 million people and causes one quarter of deaths in England, as NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Matt Kearny, MD, explained in a recent blog post. It also costs the National Health Service £7 billion a year.

Lifestyle factors are a major risk factor – smoking and obesity in particular.  High cholesterol is also a significant concern. But not enough patients recognize their risk, perhaps because conditions like high cholesterol are often silent and symptomless.  Meanwhile, physicians are time strapped and often trying to help patients deal with multiple conditions at once.

The Long-Term Plan hopes to change that reality.  It looks to improve cardiovascular health in England through two primary strategies:

  • Increasing awareness. Widely available testing and better coordination across the health and business sectors can help patients “know their numbers,” Dr. Kearny explains.  Using NHS Health Check to follow up, patients can continue to keep tabs on their health while health care providers help them monitor risk factors and receive treatment as needed.

  • Providing for more multidisciplinary care.  The NHS envisions multidisciplinary teams of health care providers and pharmacists working cohesively to identify patients with high cholesterol and other risk factors – and to improve their health outcomes.  The NHS also plans to institute an audit system called CVDprevent.  It will allow practices to pinpoint which patients may be at risk and need more preventive treatment.

England’s health outcomes have lagged in recent years.  But with the guidance of the Long-Term Plan, patients and physicians may have a better chance to identify, diagnose and proactively treat the conditions and risk factors that cut short too many lives in England.