- Heart valve disease is one of Britain’s biggest killers. Heart valve disease affects one in every 45 people – 1.5 million Brits – and tens of thousands have the condition without knowing it.
- While the trend to virtual appointments was an inevitable consequence of the pandemic, heart valve disease is more likely to be missed – a face-to-face five minute stethoscope check is the simplest way to detect the heart murmur that is the hallmark of valve disease.
- The ‘Your Heart Matters’ bus is touring the country to listen to the nation’s hearts to help raise awareness of this common condition and to improve detection of heart valve disease.
August 2023 [Blackpool, UK] – To raise awareness of heart valve disease amongst the UK population and to promote the need for stethoscope checks by GPs, Valve For Life and The Your Heart Matters bus is hitting the road and stopping in Blackpool on Wednesday 23rd August in Bickerstaff Square from 10am – 3pm.
The bus will be offering five-minute stethoscope checks, a simple and easy way to check for heart valve disease.
In Blackpool, around 27,000 people are living with heart and circulatory disease, and around 4,600 people have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. A common abnormal heart rhythm or arrhythmia.
Heart valve disease affects approximately 1.5 million people in the UK. Patients experience fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, and if left untreated, severe aortic stenosis, the most common form of heart valve disease, is fatal within two years of diagnosis. It is estimated that it kills 4 times as many people as COVID-19 in a year. However, once treated patients can return to a good quality of life, largely free of symptoms.
It is only during an in-person appointment that a GP can have that quick listen to the chest of an older person and then refer the patient for echocardiogram. This means far fewer heart valve diseases will be picked up. There are conditions with high fatality rates, such as aortic stenosis, where 50% patients will die within two tears if left untreated.
Dr Jonathan Byrne, Interventional Cardiologist at Kings College Hospital NHS Trust and Director of the UK Valve for Life programme said:
“To date 2,750 people have visited the bus in 10 UK cities, and an undiagnosed heart condition has been discovered in in around 12% of bus visitors, with three people sent directly to A&E for urgent treatment. Cardiac conditions picked up have included severe aortic stenosis, unstable angina and abnormal heart rhythms. When a condition is picked up, we then provide the public with letters for their GPs so they can be referred to their local cardiology departments for further investigation and treatment.
A face-to-face stethoscope examination is the most straightforward method to detect key characteristic associated with valve disease – a heart murmur. This condition, if left untreated, can have life-threatening consequences.”
Dr Andrew Wiper, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at Spire Fylde Coast Hospital, Blackpool comments:
“The buses have helped educate the nation on the symptoms of heart valve disease. It has shone a spotlight on the condition, improved peoples understanding of it and saved many lives. I’m very hopeful we will raise a lot more awareness in Blackpool on Wednesday. We’ll have cardiologists and nurses on board all day.”
Robert Fowler, 87, who visited the bus when it stopped in Leeds last summer said: “I visited the bus in Leeds and after having some heart checks I was given a GP letter by the staff there and was referred to my local cardiology team. I needed to have a heart procedure called TAVI (a newer alternative to open heart surgery). I had the procedure on 3rd February and I’ve since been checked over and my readings look good. I’m doing daily exercises, taking days out with my wife and no funny turns. I feel so lucky, as had I not got on the bus my heart problem could have got a lot worse, like a stroke or heart attack. I would urge anyone to visit the bus – you might find something that could save your life.”
Early detection of heart conditions is crucial as not all patients display symptoms, often attributing them to aging or decreased fitness. The Your Heart Matters bus has successfully diagnosed approximately 1 in 10 patients with previously undetected heart conditions, enabling them to receive vital treatment. The Valve For Life initiative is dedicated to enhancing access to minimally invasive ‘key-hole’ therapies for heart valve disease, with the ultimate goal of saving lives and improving patient outcomes. By focusing on expanding availability and improving accessibility, to ensure that more individuals can benefit from these life-saving and life-changing treatments.
To find out more about the Your Heart Matters Bus, please visit: https://www.valveforlife.co.uk/valveforlifebustour.