The number of people dying from heart and circulatory diseases before their 75th birthday is on the rise for the first time in 50 years.
New analysis from the British Heart Foundation reveals 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 figures have been released as the BHF launches its new strategy, which warns against complacency, and sets ambitions for the UK to halve premature death and disability from stroke, and increase heart attack survival to 90% by 2030.
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 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 to a fall of 25% in the five years before (2007-2012).
The worrying 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.
The BHF chief executive, Simon Gillespie, said: “In the UK we’ve made phenomenal progress in reducing the number of people who die of a heart attack or stroke. 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 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.
“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.”
The BHF’s strategy sets out key measures to make sure those with existing conditions and risk factors are detected and treated early, with more effective medicines and interventions. It also says that everyone, regardless of factors like gender, age, ethnicity, or where they live, should have access to the treatment, care and support that they need.
The BHF hopes to raise funds to support £1 billion of research over the next ten years.