At the peak of the pandemic there were 2,800 deaths among under-65s where the underlying causes were heart and circulatory diseases – GETTY IMAGES
Hundreds of under-65s died from heart problems like strokes and cardiac arrests as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, a leading charity has warned.
According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF) there have been more than 800 “excess” deaths from heart and circulatory problems among those aged under 65 since the start of March.
It comes as new analysis showed that England and Wales recorded the highest number of excess deaths of 21 major industrialised nations during the first wave of the pandemic.
The BHF analysed official mortality data for England and Wales to examine the number of deaths among heart patients aged 65 and under.
It said that during the first peak of the pandemic there were almost 2,800 deaths among under-65s where the underlying causes were heart and circulatory diseases – around 420 more deaths than expected for that period of the year.
Then between May and July almost 3,100 deaths were registered in this group – around 350 more deaths than expected for that period of the year.
There were no excess deaths seen in this group between January and March, the BHF added.
It urged people to seek medical help if they had any troubling symptoms as it stressed the importance of t maintaining cardiac services during the second peak of the pandemic.
Cardiac treatments should be a “priority” as delaying care problems can cause “avoidable harm” the charity added.
“We know there are tragic consequences of the pandemic for patients with heart and circulatory diseases, and these figures further highlight that delays in care are likely contributing to more deaths than we would expect to see otherwise,” said BHF associate medical director Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan.
“It’s particularly concerning that we are seeing this trend in people under-65 continue even after the first peak of the pandemic.”
As the nation went into lockdown in late March there was a significant fall in people seeking help for suspected heart attacks.
The BHF said that in late March the number of people attending A&E with a suspected heart attack dropped by 50 per cent, and although numbers have improved, admission levels remain below previous levels.
It added that thousands have been left waiting for heart investigations such as echocardiograms.
Professor Nick Linker, national clinical director for heart disease for the NHS in England, said: “The number of people seeking emergency help for heart problems quickly recovered during the first wave, after some people had initial concerns about coming forward for care.
“The NHS has continued to offer treatment for urgent and routine heart problems throughout the pandemic and patients have been able to visit their GP, so nobody should delay coming forward to get the advice and support they need.”