Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ramp Up the Red to Help Research into Heart Disease

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ramp Up the Red to Help Research into Heart Disease

Article excerpt

FIVE decades ago, having a heart attack meant almost certain death.

Today, around two-thirds will survive.

A number of factors are to thank for this but, collectively, one very big reason is the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the money they plough into research.

The charity was set up in 1961 - a year when more than half of all recorded deaths were caused by some form of heart and circulatory disease, with coronary heart disease (CHD) the single biggest cause. Little was understood about the causes, let alone what to do about heart attacks.

Four doctors (Maurice Campbell, Paul Wood, Evan Bedford and William Evans) joined forces to found an organisation that would make changing this, along with the addressing heart health as a whole, its aim. Two years on, in 1963 the BHF was able to issue its first research grants, totalling PS180,980, with selected projects including improving pacemakers and pioneering surgeon Donald Ross's exploration into heart valve replacement.

Another five years later, Ross led the team who carried out the country's first ever heart transplant, supported by the BHF.

In the time since, a lot's been achieved. Fatalities for children born with heart defects have dropped by more than 80 per cent, technology has been revolutionised and, far from being the mystery they once were, much is now understood about factors that increase somebody's chances of suffering a heart attack, from smoking and poor diet, to genes that play a part.

But there's still a long way to go.

The bulk of the charity's money is spent on research.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, BHF's associate medical director, explains: "Some of what we fund is really quite fundamental research, to discover things like how a heart cell beats in a way that we didn't know before, or which molecules are involved in that, and how they will be targetable to try and help fix irregular heartbeats, for example. …

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