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UK heart deaths rise for first time in 50 years

Includes younger under 65s group

Image:  British Heart Foundation

The number of people dying from heart and circulatory disease is on the rise in the UK for the first time in 50 years, warns a new report from charity the British Heart Foundation.

Its latest analysis of the national health statistics has revealed an upward trend in cardiovascular-related deaths, including heart attack and stroke, before the age of 75.

The charity says increasing a rising population and increasing rates of diabetes and obesity are partly to blame, and called for more collaboration on research for new treatments, diagnosis and support for at-risk groups.

In 2014, the number totalled to 41,042 but in 2017 this number rose to 42,385, despite decades of progress that saw the annual death rate from heart and circulatory disease half since the 1960s.

A similar pattern has also unfolded in those under 65, where the number of deaths caused by heart or circulatory disease rose from 17,982 in 2012, to 18,668 in 2017, representing a 4% rise in the last five years compared to a 19% decline in the five years before.

“In the UK we’ve made phenomenal progress in reducing the number of people who die of a heart attack or stroke,” said British Heart Foundation's chief executive Simon Gillespie.

“But we’re seeing more people die each year from heart and circulatory diseases in the UK before they reach their 75th, or even 65th, birthday. We are deeply concerned by this reversal.”

Heart and circulatory disease remain a leading cause of death in the UK, with millions at risk due to 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 million of people at risk of a heart attack or stroke,” added Gillespie.

Committing to this, the BHF has said it aims to raise £1bn over the next ten years to support research into heart and circulatory diseases, focusing on early detection methods and the introduction of more effective medicines into the patient’s treatment pathway.

“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," concludes Gillespie.

The figures were released alongside the BHF’s new strategy, which has set the UK new ambitions to halve premature death and disability from stroke, and increase heart attack survival to 90% by 2030.

Pharma industry investment in cardiovascular disease research is now dwarfed by other fields, most notably oncology, but there remain some promising developments in the field.

Bayer recently teamed up with Imperial College London to explore the use of artificial intelligence in drug development, planning to develop machine learning tools such as 3D heart imaging, along with genetic data form the UK Biobank to better understand heart disease.

Meanwhile, drug giants such as Novartis and AstraZeneca are developing new heart disease treatments, with the latter recently revealing that its antiplatelet drug Brilinta can reduce cardiovascular events in diabetes patients with coronary artery disease.

Novartis said it will in-license Akcea’s cardiovascular drug, which could potentially treat millions of patients with elevated Lp(a), a factor that cannot be managed by lifestyle changes.

Article by
Gemma Jones

13th May 2019


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