Authored by Alexander Zhang via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Over 500 additional deaths a week involving heart diseases have been recorded in England since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has said.
Based on data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, the BHF revealed in a report (pdf) that, since February 2020, there has been a total of 96,540 excess deaths involving cardiovascular conditions—an umbrella term for a range of heart and blood vessel conditions including heart attacks and strokes.
BHF Chief Executive Dr. Charmaine Griffiths said, “It is deeply troubling that so many more people with cardiovascular disease have lost their lives over the past three years.”
In the first year of the pandemic, COVID-19 infection drove high numbers of excess deaths involving cardiovascular disease.
While deaths from COVID-19 have since fallen year-on-year, the number of deaths involving cardiovascular disease have remained high above expected levels, said the BHF analysis.
Dr. Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF and consultant cardiologist, said: “COVID-19 no longer fully explains the significant numbers of excess deaths involving cardiovascular disease.”
She said there may have been other contributing factors, including the disruptions to the NHS over the past few years.
The charity said a major contributing factor has been the “severe, ongoing disruption” to heart care in the NHS.
The number of people waiting for time-sensitive cardiac care was at a record high of nearly 390,000 at the end of April in England, according to NHS England.
Average ambulance response times for heart attacks and strokes have consistently been more than 30 minutes since the beginning of 2022.
There has also been significant disruption to the detection and management of high blood pressure and other conditions that put people at much greater risk of a heart attack or stroke, the charity said.
Dr. Babu-Narayan said: “Long waits for heart care are dangerous—they put someone at increased risk of avoidable hospital admission, disability due to heart failure, and premature death. Yet people are struggling to get potentially life-saving heart treatment when they need it due to a lack of NHS staff and space, despite cardiovascular disease affecting record numbers of people.”
The BHF also said that COVID-19 may potentially have caused a rise in heart problems. It cited a separate study as showing that those who caught the infection before the vaccine rollout were five times more likely to die in the 18 months after infection.
Some studies have linked myocardial inflammation to the mRNA vaccines, but the BHF played down the risks posed by vaccines.
It said: “COVID-19 vaccine associated myocarditis has been rare, more common in young men after a second vaccine dose, and fortunately shows a favourable clinical course in the vast majority of those affected.
“Myocarditis can cause heart scarring that can be detected with cardiac MRI—to mitigate the small chance of scarring causing a life-threatening arrhythmia in the future, it is likely that affected individuals will be offered long-term follow-up and monitoring.”
Between December 2020 and February 2023, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency recorded 72 UK deaths suspected to be related to the COVID-19 vaccine.
But the BHF said, “The benefits of receiving COVID-19 vaccines in reducing severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection in people living with cardiovascular disease greatly outweigh the risk of extremely rare side effects.”
Professor John Greenwood, President of the British Cardiovascular Society, said: “The high numbers of excess cardiovascular disease (CVD) deaths published today are worrying, but unfortunately not surprising. We know that COVID-19 has caused direct (COVID-19 leading to new CVD), indirect (reduced treatment and prevention of CVD) and long-term effects (CVD and Long COVID-19).”
Dr. Griffiths urged the government to “take control of this crisis” by “prioritising NHS heart care, better preventing heart disease and stroke, and powering science to unlock future treatments and cures.”
A government spokesperson said: “We are cutting waiting lists, ambulance response times are falling, staff increasing and we are improving access to blood pressure and health checks.
“We know there is more to do which is why we are consulting on a Major Conditions Strategy to tackle cardiovascular disease—including strokes and diabetes—and we have opened 108 community diagnostic centres that have delivered over 4 million tests, scans, and checks including for those with cardiovascular disease.
“The government is also working with NHS England to combat some of the causes of cardiovascular disease, with schemes to support increased physical activity, reduce obesity rates, and encourage people to stop smoking.”