As printed in the Wetherby News on Thursday 2nd March 2017.
Last year I was appointed Trustee of the Lord Mayor’s Charity Appeal, a cross-party panel committed to raising funds for charities supported by the Lord Mayor of Leeds.
This year one of those charities is Heart Research UK, a Leeds-based national charity celebrating its fiftieth birthday this weekend with a special event at Wetherby Racecourse.
Since 1967, Heart Research UK – formerly the Northern Heart Research Fund, has supported pioneering medical research into the prevention, treatment and cure of heart disease.
This is a cause literally close to my heart. Like thousands of people a
cross Leeds heart disease, in its various guises, is dominant within my family. It’s an issue never too far from my mind and not something to kick on the backburner to worry about when I’m older either, genetic conditions such as familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy affect young hearts too; the condition is the biggest cause of sudden death in young adults, affecting one in five hundred people.
Mention of cardiomyopathy is most commonly linked to sudden death in sport, including the death in 1992 of Daniel Yorath, the fifteen year old son of former Leeds United midfielder Terry Yorath.
Unless detected early, cardiomyopathy can become a silent killer with its victim unaware of the condition affecting the shape of the heart, or the size and thickness of the muscle walls. This thickening reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body, something muscles demand of the heart more during exercise.
Heart Research UK recently supported a twenty-four month research project at Imperial College London to develop a simple and affordable blood test to identify and monitor patients at risk of developing heart muscle stiffness. This is one very real example of how our small financial donations deliver big pioneering studies.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is just one condition in a field of many related to the heart, but heart disease in general remains the biggest single killer in the UK, topping 70,000 deaths a year. With non-genetic disorders lifestyle remains a major factor on the health of our hearts and it is in this respect Heart Research UK has a proven track record, through its healthy heart grants, of supporting communities to improve their lifestyles and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
It is however its work in pioneering new medical treatments that has helped Heart Research UK expand to become the second largest heart charity in the country.
In the last ten years alone the culmination of over £12 million of fundraising has supported university-led research into new treatments and procedures, delivering centres of excellence and developing the knowledge of clinicians in hospitals across the UK.
Collectively, we remain a charitable population. Each year our communal generosity provides a record number of donations to national fundraising drives such as Children in Need, the Disasters Emergency Committee and Comic Relief. Similarly, in our everyday activities and regular contributions we fund larger national charities such as Cancer Research UK.
Yet, despite our national generosity, it remains the case that slightly smaller charities such as Heart Research UK have to work hard to keep pace, they have to do so with no government funding and instead rely entirely on donations and people raising money through challenges and events.
So, next time you’re walking through town and see somebody carrying a Heart Research UK collection bucket, please drop a few coins (or notes) into the bucket and help a locally-based national charity continue its work pioneering treatments that help us live longer with healthier, happier hearts.
Readers can find out more information or donate direct to Heart Research UK at www.heartresearch.org.uk/support.