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Cardiovascular disease: early deaths in England at highest rate in more than a decade | Heart disease


Heart disease

British Heart Foundation says its figures reveal ‘the worst heart care crisis in living memory’

Premature deaths from cardiovascular disease have reached their highest rate in England for more than a decade, figures reveal.

According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), the rate at which people under 75 died from heart problems was in decline before the Covid pandemic, although progress slowed between 2012 and 2019.

Since 2020, however, the rate has risen. The latest data from the charity shows that the premature death rate for cardiovascular disease in England reached 80 per 100,000 people in 2022. That is the highest since 2011 when the rate was 83 per 100,000 people, the BHF notes.

The actual number of people dying prematurely of cardiovascular conditions including heart attacks, coronary heart disease and stroke has reached the highest level since 2008, with more than 39,000 such deaths in 2022.

The reversal in progress has caused consternation. “We’re in the grip of the worst heart care crisis in living memory,” said Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, the BHF’s associate medical director and a consultant cardiologist.

“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.”

Babu-Narayan said it was tragic that hard-won progress in reducing early deaths from cardiovascular disease has been lost. “Furthermore, we are still seeing more people than expected die from cardiovascular conditions overall, more than any other disease group,” she said. “It’s clear to me that urgent intervention is long overdue.”

The Covid pandemic is thought to be one reason for the deteriorating situation. The BHF revealed last year that there had been almost 100,000 excess cardiovascular-related deaths in England since March 2020, with experts noting Covid had direct, indirect and long-term effects on cardiovascular disease.

The charity said, however, that other factors were at play including a widening health gap between rich and poor, long waiting times for tests and treatments, and a failure to tackle risk factors such as high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.

Even before the pandemic, BHF figures for the UK as a whole suggested a rise in the number of people dying from heart and circulatory diseases before the age of 75, something the charity said was not only down to a growing population, but also other factors including stark inequalities.

“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 life-saving heart and stroke care, and help power scientific breakthroughs to unlock revolutionary new treatments and cures,” said Dr Charmaine Griffiths, the BHF’s chief executive.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “This government has already taken significant action to reduce cardiovascular disease and its causes, including increasing access to testing and successfully encouraging reduced salt and sugar intake, but we know there is more to do.

“Our major conditions strategy will help prevent and manage conditions including cardiovascular disease while our plans to create a smoke-free generation represent the most significant public health intervention in a generation.

“In addition, we are investing almost £17m in an innovative new digital NHS health check, expected to deliver an additional 1m health checks in its first four years.”



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