Reducing deaths from heart disease
Coronary heart disease is the most common cause of premature death in the UK. For example, from 2006 to 2007, it cut short the lives of more than 31,000 people.
Although the numbers dying from this condition has been decreasing since the early 1970s, coronary heart disease still affects more people in the UK than in many other Western Europe countries.
However, new recommendations from NICE, in the form of two new publications, look set to tackle the problem head on.
The first gives advice on how to diagnose and assess chest pain - one of the most common symptoms of heart disease. (Although around 20-40% of the general population experience chest pain during their lives, in the vast majority of cases it is not due to heart problems.)
The second will ensure those with recurring chest pain (unstable angina) and those who have had a particular type of heart attack (non-ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction - NSTEMI) receive the treatments they need, when they need them
Architect Gavin Maxwell, who was part of the group which developed the unstable angina/NSTEMI recommendations, believes both publications will make a real difference.
Gavin had a heart attack 17 years ago and was subsequently told that, because of the nature of the problem, there was a possibility he might have another one.
He describes the treatment he received from the NHS as “close to exemplary”.
When he joined the group developing the guidance,Gavin was very surprised to discover that today, 17 years on, the standard of care he enjoyed is still not available to everyone.
From a patient's perspective, he believes the recommendations on how to assess someone's risk of suffering a future heart attack or stroke are key. That's because the assessment will determine what treatments are likely to be most beneficial in the short, medium and longer term.
Gavin also welcomes NICE's emphasis on cardiac rehabilitation - and has “no doubt at all” that his participation in a well structured and delivered rehabilitation programme made all the difference.
“It gave me the ability to look upon the rest of my life and its challenges in a very positive way. And yet, 17 years on, less than half the patients who have suffered an acute coronary syndrome are offered cardiac rehabilitation.
“I would like to see it offered to all patients who have had a heart attack and hopefully this guideline will help with that.”
Gavin is nearly 80 now, but still works on a consultancy basis.
“As a patient still at risk and still very much within - and benefiting from - the system, I welcome the publication of these guidelines,” he said. “My hope is that they will ensure many more people will be able to look forward to longer and more active lives.”
See: ‘Chest pain of recent onset: assessment and diagnosis of recent onset chest pain/discomfort of suspected cardiac origin' and: ‘Unstable angina and NSTEMI: the early management of unstable angina and non-ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction'.
This page was last updated: 10 May 2010