Analysis by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has found that 80 people in every 100,000 in England died from heart and circulatory diseases before the age of 75 in 2022.
This was the highest level since 2011, when 83 per 100,000 people died prematurely, and was the third successive year that the death rate has risen, coinciding with the pandemic.
Experts said that since 2020 it is the “first time there has been a clear reversal in the trend for almost 60 years” following a “significant slowdown” in improvements between 2012 and 2019.
More than 39,000 people under 75 died from cardiovascular disease in 2022, which includes heart attacks, strokes, and coronary heart disease. It equates to 107 people dying each day, or almost five people per hour.
Highest number since 2008
It was the highest number of premature deaths from heart disease since 2008 when almost 40,000 people died, and has risen every year since a low of 33,700 in 2014. When adjusted to account for the changing population size and age, the 73 deaths per 100,000 people in 2019 was the lowest rate.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF and a consultant cardiologist, said Britain was “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,” she said.
“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.”
While the rate of deaths fell by 11 per cent between 2012 and 2019, this was down on the 33 per cent it reduced by in the seven years prior.
Risen 13 per cent since pandemic
It has risen almost 13 per cent since the pandemic, undoing a decade of progress.
Pressure on the NHS and its services and the impact of the pandemic are partly to blame, the charity said, but added that the Government had failed to act on more than a decade of “warning signs”.
BHF said that millions of people are living with undiagnosed conditions that are putting them at risk, such as high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes, along with a lack of action to tackle “stubbornly high obesity rates”, with around two thirds of adults in England considered overweight or obese.
“This is storing up huge problems for the future”, the charity said.
Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive at the BHF, said 50 years of progress had been “followed by a lost decade of progress in which far too many people have lost loved ones”.
“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,” she said.
‘Smoke free generation’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman 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 £17 million in an innovative new digital NHS Health Check, expected to deliver an additional one million health checks in its first four years.”