Diagnosis and prevention in those at risk

There are clear ‘red flag’ symptoms of heart failure that all doctors should be aware of.

Penilla Gunther, MP from Sweden

Overview

Early detection is key in heart failure–putting patients on appropriate treatment as early as possible is vital to help minimise the risk of their symptoms getting worse, prolong their lives and improve their quality of life.1

Unfortunately, heart failure is often not on many healthcare professionals’ radars. As a result, they may not always recognise symptoms of heart failure, and patients only get diagnosed once severe damage to their heart has already taken place.2 Equally, they may not be aware that heart failure can occur in younger as well as older people.

Doctors may also not think to try to prevent heart failure in their high-risk patients through appropriate lifestyle changes or medication.

Improving healthcare professionals’ understanding of heart failure is therefore urgently needed. Appropriate diagnostic tools should also be available and reimbursed in all relevant settings of care to help avoid any delays in diagnosis.

Economic case

  • Millions of people have existing illnesses that place them at increased risk of heart failure– such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and diabetes.3
  • In some of these patients, the risk of developing heart failure can be reduced by as much as 80% through the adoption of healthier lifestyles and treatment of cardiovascular risk factors.
  • Early diagnosis of heart failure(i.e. before severe damage to the heart has occurred) provides an opportunity to give patients life-prolonging medication which is more effective when given early in the natural course of heart failure.
  • Time is also critical when patients have an acute episode of heart failure– as a delay to hospital treatment as little as 4-6 hours after acute onset of heart failure symptoms can increase a patient’s risk of death.4

The Patient's view

“It took over three years for my diagnosis. Doctors were too quick to blame everything on being middle aged. It was only when I collapsed and was rushed to hospital that I was diagnosed, and even that took five days.”

Gina, a woman living with heart failure

“GP awareness needs raising, and also for A&E staff. There really seems to be a lack of understanding and [not] knowing what action to do, [it] seems in many cases I’ve had to advise them.”

Blair, a man living with heart failure