New UK guidelines significantly widen criteria for heart disease and stroke prevention

December 20, 2005

New joint guidelines published by six professional societies today in Heart significantly widen the criteria for prevention of heart disease and stroke in primary care, and are set to boost the numbers of patients targeted for screening and preventive treatment.

The evidence based guidelines are a collaborative effort from the British Cardiac Society, the British Hypertension Society, Diabetes UK, HEART UK, the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society and the Stroke Association.

For the first time, the guidelines focus on cardiovascular disease as a whole, rather than just on coronary heart disease, in a bid to ensure consistent treatment for all those with already hardened and narrowed arteries - namely, heart attack, stroke and hardening of the arteries in the legs.

This second category will include apparently healthy people whose risk of cardiovascular disease is greater than or equal to 20 per cent over 10 years, and those with diabetes.

Screening for cardiovascular disease should be considered for: All adults aged 40 and older, with no history of heart attack, stroke, or diabetes, and not already being treated for high blood pressure or cholesterol All adults under 40 with a family history of developing hardened and narrowed arteries earlier than expected (under 65 for women and under 55 for men)

For those at high risk, the guidance sets targets for blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar (glycaemia).

Drug treatment is not recommended for healthy people whose risk of developing cardiovascular disease is less than 20 per cent over 10 years.

Professor David Woods, lead author of the guidelines comments: "The promise of preventive cardiology is to reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. With professional lifestyle intervention and appropriate use of proven drug treatments, it is now possible to have a major impact on the commonest cause of death in the country. For people at high risk, this will mean less disability and a longer life."
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