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Progress slows in tackling premature deaths from heart attacks and strokes

Progress has slowed down in tackling premature deaths from heart attacks and strokes, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has warned.

Since 2014, the number of people dying from heart and circulatory diseases before the age of 75 has risen, from 41,042 to 42,384, three years later figures analysed by the charity show.

This equates to a 4% rise in the past five years, compared with a 19% drop in the five years before that.

Reasons behind the figures include a slowdown in the rate of improvement in death rates against the backdrop of a growing population, the BHF said.

In addition, deaths in people under 75, as a proportion of all heart and circulatory disease deaths, are also on the rise, the charity said, with 28% of all heart and circulatory disease deaths being in the under 75s compared with 26% in 2012.

The BHF has set out new targets for the UK to halve premature death and disability from stroke, and increase heart attack survival to 90%, by 2030.

BHF chief executive, Simon Gillespie, said the UK had made ‘phenomenal progress’ but they were concerned by the latest figures.

‘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.’

But Dr Andrew Green, BMA GP committee clinical and prescribing policy lead, said while it is important to know the absolute number of cardiac events for planning purposes it does not reflect the picture for individuals, where the rate is the important factor.

‘It is inevitable that the rate of improvement will decrease from its earlier dramatic fall, but the fact that it has continued to decline despite the increase in obesity and diabetes is testament to the hard work of all parts of the health service in providing care for those who have or are at risk of having heart disease.’

It follows the news of a £9m NHS programme to boost anticoagulation rates in atrial fibrillation, which hopes to identify patients on GP lists at risk of a stroke because they are not on recommended medication.