The heart is a pump which makes sure that all the tissues of the body receive a blood supply containing oxygen and nutrients. Like all pumps, the heart may become less efficient as it gets older and eventually it may not be able to keep up with the demands of the body- this is called heart failure, and although there are treatments available for heart failure, it is a serious and unpleasant disorder . Heart failure is more likely to happen when people have already had a heart attack and it may also be related to high blood pressure and diabetes.
The 3 dimensional echo scans that participants underwent at the SABRE follow-up are new and tell us about early signs of heart failure. We found that African Caribbeans and Europeans were very similar with regard to the size of the left ventricle (this is the part of the heart which pumps blood around the whole body and if it becomes enlarged it may be an early sign that the heart is under strain (picture of heart here)). On the other hand, in Indian Asians the left ventricle was on average a little smaller in relation to body size than in Europeans, but at the same time their heart muscles needed more oxygen to work efficiently.
Very few SABRE participants had actual heart failure at the 2008-2011 follow-up. However, as participants are moving towards older age, they are more at risk of this disorder. the next follow-up study (2014-17) will focus on heart failure, using these measurements and some measurement made 20 years ago to understand why some people are at particular risk of heart failure in later life.
For more information about heart failure, visit the British Heart Foundation.