Knowledge of heart valve disease (HVD) among Europeans aged 60 and over remains low, and early diagnosis is often missed, even following appointments with GPs and the regular use of a stethoscope.
These were the main findings of the European Heart Health Survey 2019 which also recommended awareness campaigns and regular heart health checks to guarantee the early diagnosis and treatment of HVD. The survey, that is conducted every two years, was led by a steering committee of healthcare professionals and patient organisation representatives. The aim was to assess public awareness of aortic stenosis and symptoms of heart valve disease, measure the frequency of stethoscope use and understand preferences of treatment.
According to the survey, just 5.6% of respondents aged over 60 could correctly describe aortic valve stenosis, the most common HVD in the elderly, whilst 69.2% said they would be prevented from enjoying sporting and social activities or providing care for a contact were they to suffer from chest pain, fatigue, or shortness of breath.
76.5% and 57.8% would contact a GP if they suffered from chest pain and shortness of breath respectively, but this figure decreases to 26.2% in the case of fatigue. Two thirds of respondents (67.6%) said they are only checked with a stethoscope by a GP occasionally, never, or only when they request it.
These results are significant, since the number of patients with severe HVD has been growing steadily over recent years and is likely to continue to grow in line with increased life expectancy. As the survey notes, “to minimize mortality, patients with HVD should be diagnosed early, closely monitored and have access to timely and appropriate treatment. In order to achieve this, effective screening and detection, as well as a well-informed population are the key.”
The survey, which was conducted in October 2019, received 12,832 responses from 11 European countries, namely Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. It was published in Clinical Cardiology and can be found here.