A new campaign called “I Love Life” was launched in Egypt this week, with the aim of raising awareness of heart failure and those suffering from the condition.
The organisers of the campaign, the Egyptian Association for Care of Heart Failure Patients, the Magdi Yacoub Heart Association, and the pharmaceutical company Novartis, held a press conference on Friday to launch the campaign and highlight new treatments that may give hope to Egyptians living with the condition.
"It is a common condition worldwide, with a prevalence of 1-2 percent in many countries, increasing to 10 percent and above among persons over the age of 70,” said Dr. Magdi Abdel Hamid, professor of cardiology at Cairo University and a panel speaker at the event.
Abdel Hamid explained that heart failure is usually caused by a cardiovascular condition, which leads to a failure of the heart muscle to either pump sufficiently or to relax and fill efficiently, or a combination of both.
As a result, the heart is unable to provide sufficient circulating blood to all the tissues of the body.
“Heart failure has grave consequences, causing more deaths than some of the most advanced cancers such as breast and bowel cancer.
"Around 50 percent of hospitalised heart failure patients are at risk of death within five years of diagnosis, "Abdel Hamid said.
A study by the Egyptian Society of Cardiology revealed the average age for an incident of heart failure in the country is 57, or 10-13 years earlier than their European counterparts.
The same study highlights that nearly 60 percent of Egyptian heart failure patients are smokers.
According to the World Health Organization, symptoms displayed by heart failure patients include breathlessness, ankle swelling and fatigue.
“Heart failure, particularly in the more severe stages, significantly impacts patients’ functional capacities, which increases their need for support with a number of daily tasks,” Abdel Hamid added, noting that heart failure also represented a financial burden.
A study from 2012 showed that the overall economic cost of heart failure was an estimated $108 billion each year.
Highlighting the multi-faceted nature of the problem, Dr. Sameh Shaheen, a professor of cardiology at Ain Shams University, added that of the 1.8 million sufferers of heart failure in Egypt, 63 percent also battle depression.
The panellists explained that the treatment goals for patients presenting with heart failure symptoms would be to improve their clinical status, functional capacity and quality of life, as well as prevent hospital admission and reduce mortality.
“However, several heart failure drugs have shown detrimental effects on long-term outcomes, despite showing beneficial effects in the shorter term,” said Dr. Mohamed Sobhy, a professor of cardiology at Alexandria University.
The panel discussed new treatments which are available in Egypt like Sacubitril and Valsartan, which have demonstrated an overall 20 percent reduction in risk of cardiovascular death, and a 16 percent reduction in risk of all-cause death, after tests and trials with over 8,000 patients.
"The problem of heart failure continues to affect more Egyptians, but a more profound understanding of the disease and the introduction of new treatments and medications can improve the situation significantly," prominent cardiology professor Sir Magdi Yacoub concluded.