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Heart disease warning as early deaths at highest rate in more than a decade | UK News

The NHS is in the grip of the “worst heart care crisis in living memory”, an expert has warned – as figures show the rate at which people are dying from early heart and circulatory diseases has risen to its highest level in more than a decade.

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.

The premature death rate for cardiovascular disease has risen year-on-year since 2020, with the latest figures showing it reached 80 per 100,000 people in England in 2022 – the highest rate since 2011 when it was 83.

It 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 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.”

‘Significant slowdown’ in rate of improvement

The BHF said 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 with a fall of 33% between 2005 and 2012.

Numbers show more than 39,000 people died prematurely of cardiovascular conditions including heart attacks, coronary heart disease and stroke in 2022 – an average of 750 people each week.

It was the highest annual total since 2008.

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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.”

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