Our history

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is the biggest funder of cardiovascular research in the UK. It helps scientists undertake pioneering research into many different heart conditions, their diagnosis and treatment.

The BHF was founded in 1961 by a group of medical professionals determined to raise funding for vital research into the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heart and circulatory disease. Since then, the lives of millions of people with heart disease have been transformed by the BHF’s work.

Ground-breaking successes from the BHF’s early days, such as heart scans and angioplasty tests, are now routine.

Throughout its history the BHF has achieved a remarkable set of milestones. These include:

  • Changing how heart attacks are treated BHF research led to the discovery of clot-busting drugs and the effectiveness of statins.
  • Heart transplants Professors Sir Magdi Yacoub and Sir Terence English pioneered heart transplant surgery with the BHF in the 1980s. Sir Magdi Yacoub has also led innovations in surgery that have helped hearts recover.
  • Improved children’s survival rates In 1961, just 20 per cent of children born with heart defects lived to their first birthday. Over the past three decades procedures pioneered by BHF researchers, such as valve replacements, have helped the number of children dying of such conditions to fall by more than 80 per cent.
  • Exploring genetics Our researchers are gaining a greater understanding of the genetics of inherited heart conditions such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
  • Tackling high cholesterol BHF-supported research has been instrumental in developing statins that can help people control their cholesterol.
  • Inherited conditions Studies have proved that heart disease runs in families and our researchers are seeking ways to help families affected by inherited conditions.
  • Extending life BHF researchers have helped develop medicines that can help extend life for heart failure patients. The money raised through our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal will help to fund this research.
  • Faster recovery BHF research has helped make heart surgery safer and has resulted in innovative transplant techniques and is developing ways to make recovery quicker and easier.
  • Improving pacemakers BHF scientists helped transform pacemakers from heavy, bulky items into devices that can fit inside the chest, with no exposed wires. And we’re still working on improvements – as well as research that could mean fewer people need to be fitted with a pacemaker at all.
  • Preventing sudden death BHF’s research into Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) has helped pioneer technology like ICD implants.