Study finds high rate of unrecognized heart problems in apparently healthy middle-aged people

Researchers from the UK have just reported in the Postgraduate Medical Journal that unrecognized heart problems are surprisingly common in apparently healthy middle-aged people.

The study used standard heart scans by echocardiography to look at heart valves and heart

r Echo machine

Heart image obtained by echo scan

muscle in 362 men and women in England aged 50 – 74 years without known heart disease. 178 –  almost half –  had abnormalities of a valve or muscle or irregular heart beat. Many had more than one cardiac abnormality.

Premature cardiovascular disease in a leading cause of death in the western world.   Despite the decline in the rates of mortality, largely due to reduction of deaths from ischaemic heart disease, cardiovascular disease remains an important cause of death. This is at least partly related to the fact that a number of patients with cardiac conditions remain largely undiagnosed and present late in the natural history, missing the window where maximum benefit could be offered with timely intervention.

Study author Cardiologist Constantinos Missouris said:

“Patterns of heart disease are changing, with rheumatic heart disease becoming less common but an increase in rates of degenerative valve disorders, heart failure and serious arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation. Our study shows that unrecognised cardiac abnormalities are very common in middle-aged men and women with no overt symptoms. Echo offers a simple way to identify the need for early medical intervention.”

Clinical Pharmacologist Donald Singer and co-author of the study added:

“Finding effective ways to identify and treat people with unrecognized heart problems is vital to reduce the risk and severity of preventable heart disease.  Our results point to the need for doctors and patients to be more aware of the risk of heart problems and how to detect and treat them

Notes for editors

This report refers to the paper entitled Registry report of structural and functional cardiac abnormalities diagnosed by echocardiography in an asymptomatic population” published on 19th February 2016 in the Postgraduate Medical Journal.
Postgraduate Medical Journal is an international medical journal owned by the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine. The PMJ has published papers and reviews on many of the important medical advances over the past 90 years. The PMJ publishes work on clinical medicine, with the aim of educating medical professionals, junior doctors, teachers and clinicians.

The Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, founded in 1918, pioneered educational programmes in all branches of postgraduate medicine. The FPM publishes 2 international journals: the Postgraduate Medical Journal since 1925 and Health Policy and Technology since 2012.

Further information
Donald Singer
President, Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, London, UK
Tel. +44 7447 441 666




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