UK heart disease fatalities on the rise for first time in 50 years

The number of people in the UK dying from heart and circulatory diseases before the age of 75 is rising for the first time in 50 years, the British Heart Foundation has said.

There were 42,384 deaths of under-75s caused by the diseases in 2017, compared with 41,042 in 2014, figures showed. During the five years to 2017 there had been an increase of 4% in the number of people dying from heart and circulatory diseases before they reach 65, compared with a 19% drop in the previous five years.

Simon Gillespie, the chief executive at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: “We are deeply concerned by this reversal. Heart and circulatory diseases remain a leading cause of death in the UK, with millions at risk because of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

“We need to work in partnership with governments, the NHS and the medical research community to increase research investment and accelerate innovative approaches to diagnose and support the millions of people at risk of a heart attack or stroke.”

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The BHF said a slowdown in the rate of improvement in death rates combined with a growing population is partly to blame. Between 2012 and 2017, the premature death rates for heart and circulatory disease in the UK fell by just 9%, compared with a fall of 25% between 2007 and 2012.

But the charity also said uncontrolled and undiagnosed risk factors and stark inequalities could be leading to avoidable deaths in younger people.

There has been an 18% increase in people diagnosed with diabetes during the past five years, with an estimated 920,000 people having undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. Almost 5 million people are estimated to have undiagnosed high blood pressure.

Premature death rates from heart and circulatory disease in some areas of the country are more than three times as high as in others and there are 15 million adults in the UK with obesity, which is more prevalent in poorer areas.

The BHF wants the UK to halve premature death and disability from stroke and increase heart attack survival to 90% by 2030.

Gillespie said: “Only through the continued commitment of our researchers, the public’s generous support, and determination from governments, can we shift the dial and imagine a 2030 where fewer people live with the fear of heart and circulatory disease.”

Dr Matt Kearney, a GP and the national clinical director for cardiovascular disease prevention, said: “BHF are right to point to the threat that preventable risks like obesity and type 2 diabetes pose to cardiovascular health and the need for wider action to tackle these problems at source, including tackling added salt and junk calories in our processed food.”