Early deaths from heart disease at highest level for more than a decade
The British Heart Foundation is warning of ‘the worst heart care crisis in living memory’
The rate at which people are dying early from heart and circulatory diseases has risen to its highest level in more than a decade, figures show.
Data analysed by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) shows a reverse of previous falling trends when it comes to people dying from heart problems before the age of 75 in England.
Since 2020, the premature death rate for cardiovascular disease has risen year-on-year, with the latest figures for 2022 showing it reached 80 per 100,000 people in England in 2022 – the highest rate since 2011 when it was 83.
This is the first time there has been a clear reversal in the trend for almost 60 years.
Between 2012 and 2019 progress slowed and, from 2020, premature death rates began to clearly rise, the data reveals.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF and a consultant cardiologist, said: “We’re in the grip of the worst heart care crisis in living memory.
“Every part of the system providing heart care is damaged, from prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery; to crucial research that could give us faster and better treatments.
“This is happening at a time when more people are getting sicker and need the NHS more than ever.
“I find it tragic that we’ve lost hard-won progress to reduce early death from cardiovascular disease.”
The BHF said that even before the rise in death rates began in 2019, there had been a “significant slowdown” in the rate of improvement since 2012.
Between 2012 and 2019, the premature death rate for cardiovascular disease in the UK fell by just 11%, compared to a fall of 33% between 2005 and 2012.
When it comes to raw numbers, more than 39,000 people in 2022 died prematurely of cardiovascular conditions including heart attacks, coronary heart disease and stroke – an average of 750 people each week.
This is the highest annual total since 2008.
Dr Babu-Narayan told the PA news agency: “Increasing pressure in recent years on the NHS and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic are likely to have contributed to things getting worse, but warning signs have been present long before.
“Since 2010, decades of progress in cutting deaths from heart disease has stalled and the health gap between rich and poor has markedly widened.
“People living in the most deprived parts of England have been getting sicker and rates of some cardiovascular conditions have increased.
“People living with heart disease have to contend with long waits for tests and treatment and intervals between their medical reviews becoming too long.
“On top of this, there hasn’t been enough action to address cardiovascular risk factors over the last decade.
“Millions of people are living with undiagnosed risk factors such as high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, and diabetes, and nearly two thirds of adults in England have a weight classed as overweight or obese. This is storing up even more problems for the future.”
Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive at the BHF, said the figures paint a “heart-breaking picture”.
She added: “For more than half a century, pioneering research and medical advances helped us make huge strides towards reducing heart attack and stroke deaths.
“But this has been followed by a lost decade of progress in which far too many people have lost loved ones to cardiovascular disease too soon.
“We can stop this heartbreak, but only if politicians unite to address the preventable causes of heart disease; cut long waiting lists for people who need lifesaving heart and stroke care; and help power scientific breakthroughs to unlock revolutionary new treatments and cures.”
NHS England national specialty adviser for cardiovascular disease prevention, Helen Williams, said the NHS remains committed to saving thousands more lives from major conditions including heart attack and stroke.
She said the NHS “has rolled out a range of preventative measures to support people to take control of their own health, with hundreds of thousands taking part in weight management programmes and services to help people quit smoking, through to blood pressure checks on the high street.
“Improving the detection and control of high-risk conditions such as atrial fibrillation, hypertension and high cholesterol is among the interventions being rolled out to keep on top of cardiovascular risks, and thanks to the hard work of NHS staff, thousands more people are now being supported to manage their condition more effectively than before the pandemic, reducing the likelihood of heart attack or stroke.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub