The Clearest Picture Yet: Identifying Risk Factors for Future Heart Attacks

The Clearest Picture Yet: Identifying Risk Factors for Future Heart Attacks

Future heart attacks could be better prevented in people visiting their GP with unexplained chest pain. It is estimated that at least one million adults in the UK seek medical attention because of chest pain every year. Despite undergoing tests, the cause remains a mystery for many individuals, leaving them without a clear diagnosis. Research has shown that individuals with ‘unattributed’ chest pain are at a higher risk of developing heart health problems in the future compared to those without this type of chest pain.

Key Risk Factors for Heart and Circulatory Diseases

Researchers at Keele University have recently identified the key risk factors that can increase the likelihood of individuals with unattributed chest pain developing heart and circulatory diseases. It was found that people with diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and treated high blood pressure were at the highest risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases. Additionally, nearly half of those at highest risk were smokers or lived with obesity.

The research team at Keele University developed risk calculators that could help identify individuals at high risk of developing future heart and circulatory diseases. These tools were developed and validated using anonymized information from the health records of over 600,000 people registered at GP practices in England who had unattributed chest pain between 2002 and 2018. By tracking the data over a median follow-up period of at least five years, the researchers were able to pinpoint the key factors influencing the risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases.

The study revealed that if all current smokers with obesity were supported to lose weight and quit smoking, the mean 10-year risk in this group would significantly decrease. The research also emphasized the importance of preventative treatments, such as statins, and lifestyle advice in reducing the risk of future heart problems like heart attacks. GPs were encouraged to be cautious when using current risk-prediction tools, as they may underestimate the risk in individuals with unattributed chest pain. This highlights the need for improved risk assessment methods to accurately identify those at highest risk.

Implications for Early Intervention

Professor Mamas Mamas, Professor of Cardiology at Keele University, emphasized the importance of recognizing chest pain as a warning sign for potential future health problems. The researchers hope that their findings will pave the way for better management of risk factors in individuals with unattributed chest pain. By identifying those at highest risk early on, both doctors and patients can take proactive steps to prevent future heart and circulatory diseases.

The Role of Health Data in Transforming Healthcare

Professor Bryan Williams, chief scientific and medical officer at the British Heart Foundation, highlighted the significance of health data in research aimed at addressing major health challenges. By developing a clearer picture of the risk factors associated with unexplained chest pain, this research has the potential to help more individuals avoid future heart problems. The findings provide important insights that can guide healthcare providers in early intervention strategies and motivate patients to adopt healthier lifestyles to reduce their risk of future health issues.


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