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Heart disease deaths see first sustained rise in 50 years

More than 42,000 under-75s died from heart and circulatory diseases in 2017

More than 42,000 under-75s died from heart and circulatory diseases in 2017.

The number of people dying from heart and circulatory diseases before they reach their 75th birthday is on the rise for the first time in 50 years, according to an analysis by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

The figures show an upward trend in deaths since 2014, with 42,384 people dying from conditions including heart attack and stroke in the UK before the age of 75 in 2017, compared to 41,042 three years earlier. 

The number of deaths caused by heart and circulatory diseases in under 65s is also increasing, peaking at 18,668 in 2017, up from 17,982 five years earlier. This represents a 4% rise in the last five years, compared to a 19% decline in the five years before. 

A significant slowdown in the rate of improvement in death rates per 100,000 people combined with a growing population is partly to blame, the charity said.

Between 2012 and 2017, the premature death rates for heart and circulatory disease in the UK fell by just 9%, compared to a fall of 25% in the five years before (2007-2012).

Another contributing factor is that deaths in people under 75, as a proportion of all heart and circulatory disease deaths, are also on the rise. In the UK in 2017, 28% of all heart and circulatory disease deaths were in people under 75, compared to 26% in 2012.

Similarly, 12.2% of the people who died from heart and circulatory disease in 2017 were under 65, compared to 11.2% five years earlier.

The slowdown follows decades of progress that has seen annual deaths from heart and circulatory disease half since the 1960s, partly thanks to improvements in treatments and changing lifestyles including declining smoking rates.

BHF chief executive Simon Gillespie said 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 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,” he argued.