Know your ABCs

29th June 2021

In this blog, National FH and Lipids Programme Lead Dr Joe Chidanyika (pictured with his son) takes us through Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and how important it is for us to have an awareness of our ABCs.


Well, there is a first for everything and yes, I can acknowledge I am a blog virgin!

Besides my passion for preventing or living healthier with Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), I have also been just as passionate about the power that physical activity has on not only improving mental wellbeing, but also as one of the most important antidotes for better health.

Having played semi-professional football, continuing to play in the Durham FA over 40s league, and being an avid FA Level 2 coach, playing, coaching and watching football at any level is my favourite pastime! So, indulging in the postponed Euro 2020 football fest was always going to be my summer’s delight! Little did I know that I would be part of the 7 million plus UK watchers who turned in to watch in horror as Christian Eriksen from Denmark collapsed live on TV with a suspected cardiac arrest.

I could not separate my personal and professional emotions as I am very much aware that about 85% of all CVD deaths are due to a myocardial infarction (heart attack) or a stroke in the UK. These stark statistics also include the fact that one person in the UK dies every three minutes from a heart attack, which means throughout the duration of every 90 minute Euro 2020 match around 30 people in the UK will have died of a heart attack.

I could not shake these stats out of my head, especially when such a fit and healthy footballer was being resuscitated live on TV. If this match was in England, it would have meant that Eriksen would also have been one of the people admitted to hospital every five minutes due to a heart attack.

I have heard a cardiologist say that professional football pitches are potentially one of the “safest places” to have a cardiac arrest, which is likely down to the fact that not only do they have trained first aiders pitch side, but they are also equipped with defibrillators across the stadium in close proximity of attendees.

I can’t help but think what if this incident had happened to someone else either in a park or on a grassroots football pitch where there might not be a first aider or a defibrillator close by? But hours, days and weeks after this really shocking cardiac event happened, it seems many people are, to an extent, aware of the role first aid plays to save lives as well as how important the role that training everyone around CPR plays in such instances.

However, CVD is still the biggest cause of death or disability in the UK, which is why the 10 year NHS Long Term Plan should continue to be everyone’s business to champion all our stakeholders to prevent 150,000 cardiac events every year.

Eriksen has survived to tell the tale and as such, made the Danish football team a cult fan favourite in the Euros, where many neutral fans want them to do well as they depict that “togetherness” and “bravado” image we all associate with Scandinavian sporting teams. But again, the “bravest” thing we can all do right now is to take this opportunity and learn more about our numbers (levels) of own A, B, Cs of our cardiovascular health which relate to our Atrial Fibrillation (A), Blood Pressure (B) and Cholesterol (C) measurements. These ABC measures are paramount to determine if we are at risk of developing CVD.

A simple health check through our GP can help us understand our own blood pressure readings or our cholesterol levels, and if they are not within recommended levels, there is advice and support in terms of what activities or medication we can then take to reduce this CVD risk and live well for longer.

The impetus is therefore very much on us as much as it is on our GPs or health care system, to take ownership and reduce our own risk. Eriksen’s incident was just what I needed for this introspection, that if such a cardiac event can happen to a very fit and healthy athlete, I too might be at risk without knowing.

The national Accelerated Access Collaborative, AHSN lipid and FH programme I lead on is establishing an educational programme in collaboration with HEART UK which aims to educate not just frontline clinicians, but also the public on what is CVD with the first webinar ‘Evaluating CVD Risk’ taking place in a couple of weeks.

With one heart attack taking place every 3 minutes, it has never been more important for us to take ownership of our own health, know about the key risks and be active partners in improving or maintaining our health. Awareness of my A, B and Cs might just be what the doctor ordered.

For more information about the national FH and Lipids programme contact Joe at [email protected].