heart

In 2019, and in every corner of the world, pressing issues affect patients and their way of life. Consequently, this impacts upon their loved ones and personal, professional and social communities. There are conditions and diseases that receive a lot of attention and are broadly recognised and there are those that don’t. Atrial fibrillation (AF,) unfortunately, falls into the latter category and although it is the most common heart arrhythmia – affecting one in four of us over 40 years of age – there is a general misconception about AF amongst the general public. In fact, 45% of people incorrectly believing that AF is not a life-threatening condition. Our recent report, The Burden of Atrial Fibrillation: Understanding the Impact of the New Millennium Epidemic across Europe , aims to renew focus on this health topic and to protect more lives from this growing disease. AF is an irregular and, often, fast heart rhythm that results in the uncoordinated contraction of the top two chambers of the heart. This can cause blood clots leading patients to suffer AF-related strokes. AF sufferers are five times more likely to experience heart failure, 2.4 times more likely to experience a stroke and twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease. What worries me is that AF is one of the world’s most understated significant health issues. Estimates suggest that AF is responsible for up to 2.6% of total annual healthcare expenditure in European countries. Eleven million people across Europe are suffering from AF, with the disease being almost as common as stroke and cancer. Ageing will lead to more cases of AF. We believe that there needs to be greater awareness of AF and more done to detect the disease earlier in patients. This would potentially reduce the chance of complications and the burden...
In September , I chaired a European Parliament roundtable with MEPs and five other cardiac patient organisations on Heart Valve Disease and the Power of Positive Ageing. Our message was simple - heart valve disease is a barrier to active and healthy ageing: early detection, diagnosis and treatment with innovative medical technologies enables positive ageing. Equal access to these technologies was at the core of our discussion. Heart valve disease is a common and blameless disease of ageing. Around 13% of people aged over-75 have some form of the disease. It is both life-limiting and potentially life-threatening; 50% of people with severe aortic stenosis, the most common form of the disease, will die within 2 years if not appropriately treated. Yet, it does not have to be like this. Surgical heart valve repair or replacement are proven treatments and we are now living through a period of exciting and impressive advances in treating the disease with minimally invasive and keyhole techniques. Repairing or replacing a diseased valve can, in effect, cure the condition. Blood will once again flow through the heart the way in which nature designed it and patients can anticipate a better and longer quality of life. This is where the Power of Positive Ageing comes in. The ageing demographics of Europe are frequently viewed as a negative thing, whereas we believe and know that healthy older people contribute significantly and in very positive ways to our families, communities and economies. After all, we know that many people over the age of 65 care for their partners or look after grandchildren so that their own children can go to work. In the UK, Age UK estimates that this care is worth £15bn to the country’s economy. Here in Ireland, our senior population are literally running our communities by...