A 10-year study of hundreds of UK hospitals found many heart attack patients are dying early simply because they are not being given the right care.
Researchers found an alarming number of ‘missed opportunities’ to save patients.
The study revealed that 40 per cent of people who have a heart attack also have another serious health condition – such as diabetes or stroke.
But these patients were not receiving optimal care in hospital meaning they have a 250 per cent greater risk of early death.
The team of British researchers from Leeds University found frequent missed opportunities to treat heart attack victims who also had other long term conditions – such as diabetes or stroke.
In particular, those who had suffered a heart attack and also had kidney problems were at much greater risk of unnecessarily dying early.
The study, partly funded by the British Heart Foundation, was presented to the European Society of Cardiology conference in Barcelona.
Researchers looked at treatments in UK hospitals across the country over a 10-year period from 2003 to 2013.
They further examined the guidelines recommended to be considered for patients who had a heart attack and assessed how often these were properly followed.
The team found that 40 per cent of patients who suffered a heart attack also had a long-term health condition, such as diabetes, stroke, heart failure and renal failure.
But a staggering 86 per cent of these did not receive optimal care, meaning these patients had a 250 per cent increased risk of dying compared with patients who did not have a long-term condition.
Professor Chris Gale, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Honorary Consultant Cardiologist, at the Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine, who led the research, said: “This 10 year national study of nearly 700,000 patients with heart attack shows for the first time how a wide range of long-term health conditions impacts on survivorship following acute myocardial infarction.
“Having a long-term health condition, such as heart failure, renal failure or diabetes in addition to a heart attack was significantly associated with worse a clinical outcome.
“Whilst this was, in part, mediated by missed-opportunities in the delivery of care, evidence from this study suggests that there is a need for new therapeutic interventions to improve survival for patients with heart attack who also have long-term health conditions.”
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the research, said: “It’s important that all patients receive the best possible treatments, regardless of any other conditions they might have.
“But it’s true that having another long-term condition can complicate things.
“Choosing the best treatment has to factor in the other medicines that the patient is taking, as well as the potential side-effects.
“This sometimes means a person doesn’t necessarily get the most effective treatments, but it still could be the best choice under the circumstances.”
Professor Samani added: “This study shows that patients with long-term conditions could see substantial benefits if extra effort is put into deciding the best possible treatments.
“It also highlights the need for research to develop further treatment options for doctors and more effective medicines for these patients.”