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Experts seek to mend older hearts this Valentine’s Day

Published on: 12 February 2024

It’s that time of the year again, Valentine’s Day - queues outside jewellery shops and influencers plugging potential gifts across various social media feeds.

With love all around us, there is no better time to consider the state of your heart than right now.

Heart health typically becomes more important the older you get, and the negative impact cardiovascular disease (CVD) has on this country is highlighted by the statistic that 7.6 million people in the UK are currently living with a heart or circulatory disease.

Professor Vijay Kunadian

Older patients’ outcomes

Unfortunately, older people are still disproportionately affected by CVD, with experts at Newcastle University collaborating with researchers globally to improve outcomes for senior patients.

A recent study by experts at Newcastle University, published in The Lancet Women and Cardiovascular Disease Commission, revealed that CVD in older women continues to be of major concern.

There were an estimated 6.1 million deaths from cardiovascular disease in women in 1990, this number had risen sharply to 8.9 million in 2019.

Vijay Kunadian, Professor of Interventional Cardiology at Newcastle University, said: “Cardiovascular disease in older women remains understudied, under-recognised, underdiagnosed, and undertreated globally.

"Our findings show that while women overall are impacted more than men, those over 60 are being affected to a greater extent and require improvement in the ways that their condition is diagnosed and managed.”

A current study being led by Professor Kunadian and her colleagues at Newcastle University, called SENIOR-RITA, is seeking to study older patients with non-ST Segment Elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI), These are people who have had a heart attack but not a full blown one.

As part of the study, Professor Kunadian is measuring clinical outcomes, including complications of the procedure, survival, and quality of life in patients taking part. This will aim to provide clear guidance on how to treat high-risk older patients which in turn could significantly impact their health and wellbeing.  

Largest study of its kind

Professor Vijay Kunadian, lead researcher on the BHF-funded SENIOR-RITA study, said: “Our current study is the largest to date and is being led from Newcastle. Our study will help transform the way older patients with heart disease are managed, not only in the UK but globally.”

“We have specifically recruited patients aged 75 years and over with minor heart attacks and our oldest patient recruited is 103 years old! The patients in our study are underrepresented in clinical research and 48% of our trial participants are women, our research has been specifically designed to include participants who are not usually the focus of such studies.”

“We have measured frailty, cognition, and multiple long-term conditions for all participants and will help individualise care for these patients. Our research will also help inform international clinical practice guidelines for the best care of older adults with heart disease.”

Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, where Professor Kunadian also carries out some of her work, is home to one of the country’s major heart and lung surgical units and is the only cardiothoracic centre in the UK that provides adult and paediatric heart and lung surgery, transplantation, and mechanical circulatory support all under one roof.


Reference: The Lancet women and cardiovascular disease Commission: reducing the global burden by 2030  


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