Almost one in ten heart attacks could be prevented if high-risk patients were checked more

Almost one in ten heart attacks and strokes could be avoided if check-ups were targeted at high risk patients, new research has revealed.

People aged 40 and over in England and Wales are currently eligible to have their heart health assessed every five years.

Blood pressure, cholesterol, blood-sugar levels, smoker status, age and family history are factors considered by doctors when working out a person’s chance of having a heart attack or stroke.

Patients at higher risk can make lifestyle changes or take medication to lower their risk level.

But scientists at University College London have found that low-risk patients are receiving checks too frequently while high-risk patients aren’t receiving enough checks.

They believe a personalised rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach could save lives without costing the NHS any more money.

Their research, published in Lancet Public Health, involved monitoring 7,000 people and how long they spent in low, intermediate-low, intermediate-high and high risk categories.

While low-risk patients took an average of nine years to become intermediate-low-risk, 70 per cent of intermediate-high-risk patients took just four years to become high-risk and require treatment.

The scientists say screening intermediate-high-risk patients every year, intermediate-low-risk every four years and low-risk patients every seven years would cost the same as the current system.

They say this more targeted approach would allow higher risk patients to be treated sooner and that this would prevent eight per cent of heart attacks and strokes.

Professor Mika Kivimaki, one of the researchers, said: “The key message is use individualised screening, not one-size-fits-all.

“I think this will be taken up in future and I hope it will happen sooner rather than later.”  

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