Heart disease is still a massive health issue that society has to deal with: a large proportion of deaths are still attributed to coronary illnesses and rising childhood obesity demonstrates that this issue is far from solved.
Not only is the problem difficult to contend with; it’s also poorly understood. Heart disease is often believed to be consigned to the old and the unfit, but these stereotypes are misleading. Patrice Muamba is an unfortunate but popular example of a very fit and healthy individual being struck down by a serious heart problem. The coronary health of the young is under threat from rising childhood obesity. Of note, congenital heart disease in children itself is very common affecting about 8 in 1000 children.
Societal change is difficult to effect but, thankfully, there are signs that treatments are becoming better in the meantime.
Here are three new treatments and ideas that will help to treat the symptoms of society’s collective heart problem; from those that are effectively available now, to those that will hopefully be available in the not-too-distant future.
The health benefits of chilli peppers have been speculated and known for a while but their efficacy towards improving heart health was recently reinforced by a leading scientific study.
This research, carried out by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, identified the substance that gives chillies their spice, capsaicin, as being responsible for lowering cholesterol.
Other researchers now hope to focus the therapeutic potency of the spicy substances involved, while simultaneously reducing the ambivalently fiery effects on the mouth.
Availability: Effectively now (at your local supermarket)
2. Predictive blood tests
Prevention is better than cure, many say, and new blood tests could enact this mantra by helping health professionals to forecast when someone is at risk of a heart attack.
This predictive technology, said to be ‘the holy grail of heart medicine’ by some scientists, is being developed after it was discovered by US researchers that oddly shaped blood cells are often the antecedent of specific symptoms, like heart attacks.
Although not available yet, it is believed that blood test that can predict a heart attack up to three weeks in advance will be available soon, and could cost as little as £65.
3. Gene therapy
Some people believe gene therapy, alongside stem cell research, to be an exciting part of an emerging new medical frontier.
Broadly, gene therapy is the use of DNA as a pharmaceutical agent, based on the tested premise that sections of our own DNA can be supplemented and supplanted by DNA that’s less susceptible or resistant to disease.
Specifically, recent experiments on mice found that the injection of three vital genes - carried by a virus - can reduce post-heart-attack scarring of the heart, and it’s hoped that this treatment can be developed to be similarly effective in humans.
Availability: The not-too-distant future
These treatments are very promising, and will help to reduce mortality rates and increase quality of life in those affected. Nonetheless, these new developments do not solve the underlying issues and maintaining a healthy diet, alongside consistent exercise, is as good a treatment as any described.