Every week in the UK, around 12 young people aged 13-45 die because of an undiagnosed heart problem. CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) is a charity working hard to reduce this number.
What is CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young)?
CRY is a charity organisation whose goal is to raise awareness and prevent sudden adult death syndrome in young seemingly healthy people. It provides cardiac screening programmes for people in the UK aged 14-35 years that wish to get tested.
They offer this screening programme because, at the moment in the UK, only young people who have cardiac symptoms or a family history of premature cardiac disease or sudden cardiac death are eligible to receive cardiac screening on the NHS. Unfortunately, however, most cardiac-related deaths happen in the absence of symptoms.
What does CRY do for young people?
CRY tests young people for cardiac conditions and supports those diagnosed with potentially life-threatening cardiac conditions. There is an easy way to diagnose a cardiac problem and that is by undergoing an ECG (electrocardiogram) test. CRY offers subsidised ECG and echocardiogram screening to every young people between the ages of 14 to 35.
To date, around 200,000 young people have been screened through the use of a health questionnaire and 12-lead ECG and the data shows that 1 in 300 young people in the UK have a potentially serious cardiac condition.
In addition to the screening programmes, CRY conducts ‘My Heart’ sessions that allow nurses, physiologists and cardiologists to spend time with young people to discuss certain practical aspects of their conditions and support them through it. The charity invests around 16% of all its charity income into research and the training of young cardiologists. They also fund the expert pathology and the sports cardiology centre at St. George’s University in London.
How are you involved with CRY?
I am currently a CRY cardiologist, and I was awarded my PhD for the work I did with CRY and my first publication in Circulation journal.
I researched a condition called left ventricular non-compaction (LVNC). This is an inherited heart muscle disease that causes the heart muscle to have a spongy appearance. The condition has serious consequences such as heart failure and sudden death and is more common in black people especially those with heart failure.
I carried out previous research in athletes, which showed that around 8% of them also had characteristics that could be compatible with LVNC on the echocardiogram. From this, I realised that not all individuals with a spongy appearance of the heart should be considered as having a serious heart condition. I hypothesised that increasing the load on the heart for an extended period - such as taking part in intensive sport - can actually cause a spongy heart appearance.
To prove this hypothesis, I used a pregnancy model which generally associated with a doubling of cardiac volume by the end of the second trimester. This was a longitudinal study that used cardiac ultrasounds in 102 pregnant women going through their first and third trimester, as well as their post-pregnancy period. All women showed that they had structurally normal hearts without any spongy appearance at the start; however, throughout their pregnancy, 26 (25.4%) of them developed a spongy heart muscle appearance. Furthermore, during the post-pregnancy period, 19 (74%) women showed resolution of the spongy changes and 6 had near resolution.
What is the importance of this finding?
The finding from this study can help to prevent professionals from over-diagnosing LVNC in low-risk individuals. So far, it has had a huge impact here and abroad, generating several abstracts, publications, oral presentations and prizes internationally.
All of CRY’s public events and screening programmes are free to attend. For more information go to their website or call 02036910000.
Dr Sabiha Gati is a consultant cardiologist based in London. To make an appointment with her, visit her Top Doctors profile and check her availability. She is also available for e-Consultation allowing you to talk to her via video link from your home.