Heart failure

People care more about POT HOLES than heart failure – although the disease kills as many as dementia

Heart failure receives less public attention than potholes despite affecting almost a million Britons, scientists say.

Researchers at Lancaster University studied more than 2 billion words from books, social media and parliamentary speeches.

Looking at what politicians say in particular, they found that potholes were mentioned 37 times more often than “heart failure”.

This despite heart failure which costs the NHS £2billion a year and is one of the country’s biggest killers.

By comparison, around 20,000 drivers in England and Wales broke down due to potholes in 2021. Councils repaired 1.7 million cracks last year, at a lower cost at £100 million.

The researchers, led by Dr Jane Demmen, acknowledged that torn roads cause frustration and inconvenience as well as “some threat to health and quality of life”.

But they said potholes are “arguably less important and urgent” than heart failure.

The team called for ‘major efforts’ to improve the profile of heart failure to ensure it gets ‘equal billing’ with conditions such as cancer in health policy and future investments .

Researchers at Lancaster University studied more than 2 billion words from books, social media and parliamentary speeches. They found that potholes were mentioned 37 times more often than “heart failure”.

The graph shows the number of times

The graph shows the number of times ‘heart failure’ (red line) and ‘potholes’ (green line) were mentioned in parliamentary debates between January 1945 and February 2021 per million words

The graph shows the number of times

The graph shows the number of times ‘heart failure’ (red line), ‘cancer’ (green line) and ‘dementia’ (blue line) were mentioned in UK parliamentary debates between January 1945 and February 2021 per million words

WHAT IS HEART FAILURE?

Heart failure occurs when the heart does not pump blood throughout the body as well as it should.

Around 200,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with heart failure each year and 920,000 live with the disease.

This usually happens because the heart muscle has been damaged, which can be triggered by a heart attack.

Heart failure does not mean that the heart has stopped working. This means that it needs some support to function better.

It can occur at any age, but is more common in older people.

Heart failure is a long-lasting condition that tends to get progressively worse over time.

Its symptoms include shortness of breath, feeling tired most of the time and feeling exhausted from exercise, feeling lightheaded or fainting, and swollen ankles and legs.

Heart failure is usually caused by damage to the heart muscle, which can be triggered by a heart attack, high blood pressure, or heart rhythm problems.

Treatments are aimed at controlling its symptoms for as long as possible and slowing its progression.

These include eating healthier, exercising and quitting smoking, as well as medications, implanted devices in the chest and surgery.

Source: NHS

Heart failure occurs when the heart does not pump blood throughout the body as well as it should.

It happens when the heart muscle has become too weak or stiff over time, which can be caused by heart attacks as well as high blood pressure.

Survival rates are low, with a quarter of people dying within two years. This figure increases to about 65% in a decade.

The number of victims is also expected to increase due to the aging of the population.

But the researchers, also from Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the National Institute for Health Research, said heart failure has not received as much recognition as other serious health conditions.

The team used the Oxford English Corpus (OEC) of 21st century English texts – a database of books, social media posts, newspapers, blogs and parliamentary debates containing 2 billion words.

They recorded the number of times heart failure, cancer and dementia appeared and the context in which they were written.

Their analysis, published in the scientific journal Open heartshows that the term “heart failure” is written only 4.3 times per million words.

By comparison, “cancer” is mentioned 82 times per million words. However, the “dementia” rate is slightly lower at 3.7.

This equates to talking about cancer about 19 times more often than heart failure and 22 times more often than dementia.

This is “disproportionately high”, as the number of new cases of cancer is only twice as high as that of heart failure and dementia.

Around 200,000 Britons are diagnosed with heart failure and dementia every year, while 65,000 die from these conditions.

Meanwhile, 375,000 people are told they have cancer and 167,000 die from it.

The researchers noted that potholes in roads and pavements attracted more attention than heart failure, when looking specifically at British parliamentary debates.

In 2018, “potholes” were mentioned more than 10 times per million words – 37 times more than “heart failure” which was said 0.28 times per million words.

The researchers said: “If we take the frequency of mentions as an indicator of importance, the topic of [heart failure] has been much less prominent in British parliamentary debates in recent years than even potholes in roads and pavements.

“It is crucial that all stakeholders involved in [heart failure] redouble efforts to raise awareness of the seriousness of the disease and the urgent need to drastically improve investment in prevention, early diagnosis and better care.

A separate analysis of the context surrounding heart failure showed that it was discussed in a more technical and conventional manner and lacked the stories of personal experience that often occur when cancer is discussed.

The team noted that there had been a debate on heart failure in the House of Commons in March 2021, but this was not accessible at the time of the study and therefore was not included.