Time to act: How early detection of valvular heart disease can combat the most common cause of death in Germany.

On 15 December 2022, the EU SHD Coalition organized a press conference with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of early detection of structural heart disease, SHD, such as valvular heart disease in Germany. The event was held under the patronage of Dietrich Monstadt, MP, and has long been an advocate for the early detection of SHD and diabetes. In addition three other experts participated: Prof. Dr Roland Hardt, member of the Steering Committee of the EU SHD Coalition, Head of the Geriatric Clinic of the University Hospital Mainz, Head of the Cardiology Working Group of the German Society for Geriatric Medicine, Prof. Dr Ralph Stephan von Bardeleben, member of the EU SHD Coalition, Head of the Heart Valve Centre of the University Hospital Mainz, University Professor for Interventional Heart Valve Therapies and Matthias Kollmar, Chairman of the Patient Organisation Defibrillator (ICD) Germany e.V.

After a short introduction from the moderator Mr. von den Bergh, who stressed that cardiovascular diseases are still the most common cause of death in Germany with about 340,000 deaths per year, MP Monstadt further explained why it is important to raise awareness about SHDs and early detection. Due to the ageing society, the number of heart valve diseases is increasing and every eighth person over the age of 65 in Germany is affected by heart valve disease. However, raising awareness can be done not only by policy makers but also by medical professionals. We also need to change our attitude towards health and focus on a preventive approach rather than acting after the disease has already occurred.

The subsequent statements by Prof. Dr von Bardeleben and Prof. Dr Hardt confirmed the importance of early detection, as both pointed out that there were 5 million structural heart diseases in 2018. By 2050, this number is estimated to reach 10 million. Moreover, the symptoms of SHDs often appear insidiously. Therefore, doctors need to increase the number of basic preventive cardiac examinations such as auscultation, ECG and/or PNB blood markers. Most importantly, the examinations should be performed regularly, and possible disease should be detected at the first screening. Matthias Kollmar pleaded for nationwide training on the topic of cardiovascular diseases and early detection. The better informed the patient, the more successful the therapy.