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Improving treatment for those with multiple conditions is ‘urgent challenge’

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Nine in ten people with coronary heart disease in the UK are living with at least one other long-term condition, increasing the risk of an early death, a charity has warned.

The British Heart Foundation highlighted that a rise in the number of people living with inter-related health conditions was a grave challenge for health systems only focusing on treating individual illnesses.

“Today’s figures point towards an emerging and very urgent challenge”

Simon Gillespie

Analysis by the charity revealed that, out of the 2.3 million people living with coronary heart disease, 90% have at least one other long-term condition, while 57% have at least three.

These long-term conditions included strokes, dementia and high blood pressure, with high blood pressure being the highest commodity affecting 56% of patients.

Hypertension was followed by 26% of those patients having diabetes, 14% having had a stroke and 13% of patients living with heart failure.

Previous studies show that people living with one health condition were 32% more likely to die if they suffer a heart attack and twice as likely to die if they have two or more health conditions, noted the BHF.

Figures also showed that people with coronary heart disease, including those who have experienced a heart attack, were more than twice as likely to suffer a stroke, or develop vascular dementia.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Over the years we’ve made huge progress in improving survival rates for single conditions like heart attacks. However, today’s figures point towards an emerging and very urgent challenge.

“For example, increasing numbers of people are surviving heart attacks, but are going on to suffer strokes or live with additional conditions like vascular dementia,” he said.

“These conditions limit people’s quality of life, increase their risk of dying and will place increasing pressure on the health and care system across the UK,” said Mr Gillespie.

“It is critically important that we find innovative ways to tackle multi-morbidity”

Nilesh Samani

These findings also showed a fourfold increase from 2000 to 2014. The number of patients with heart and circulatory diseases living with five or more additional illnesses has increased from (6.3% to 24.3%).

Mr Gillespie called for more funding on research surrounding conditions of the heart and circulatory systems.

This type of research is “chronically-unfunded”, but more support can insure millions do not suffer from “long term debilitating conditions,” he said.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the foundation, said: “More research is needed to understand the underlying reasons for the connections between different conditions, and why the number of people living with multiple diseases is rising at such speed.

“While factors like an ageing population, and the increasing number of people with conditions like diabetes is contributing, they don’t fully explain the trends we’re seeing,” he said.

“It is critically important that we find innovative ways to tackle multi-morbidity, and not just focus on individual illnesses,” he added.

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