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Under-75s in deprived areas twice as likely to die from heart disease

Under-75s in deprived areas twice as likely to die from heart disease
By Julie Griffiths
23 May 2024

People living in the most deprived areas of England are more than twice as likely to die before the age of 75 from cardiovascular disease (CVD) than those in the least deprived regions, British Heart Foundation (BHF) research reveals.

And the rate at which people are dying is rising two times faster in the poorest parts of England than in more affluent areas.

Latest figures show that in 2022, the 10% most deprived areas had a rate of 109 per 100,000 deaths—up from 94 in 2019. This compares to 50 per 100,000 in the wealthiest 10% of areas in 2022—up from 45 in 2019.

The 2022 figures show that the premature death rate for CVD has reached the highest rate for more than a decade – an average of 79 per 100,000 people.

The charity called for immediate government action to prevent the health divide between rich and poor from growing further.

BHF chief executive Dr Charmaine Griffiths described the gap as ‘shameful’.

 ‘We’re in the grip of a historic heart crisis. Without urgent action, the heart health gap between the richest and poorest will continue to grow even wider,’ she said.

The charity said that tackling the many causes of health inequalities would be crucial.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at BHF, said: ‘People living in the poorest areas can face poverty, pollution, fewer healthy, accessible and affordable food choices, as well as poorer working and living conditions. Meanwhile, people from the wealthiest areas tend to have better outcomes and better access to healthy lifestyles.’ 

She added that urgent intervention was ‘long overdue to prevent heart disease happening in the first place and to make heart care better, faster and fairer for everyone’.

Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of The King’s Fund said the research echoed findings of other work that showed ‘the burden of CVD does not fall equally’.

‘Tackling the CVD challenge will require improved access to NHS diagnosis and treatment, particularly in deprived communities.

‘But to really get at the root causes, there needs to be a wider package of national measures including bold, cross-government action to reduce risk factors like smoking, drinking, poor diet and lack of exercise,’ she said.

In January 2023, the Government announced a Major Conditions Strategy to tackle the biggest drivers of ill health and early death in England, including cardiovascular disease.

An interim report published by the Department of Health and Social Care last summer showed a rising tide of CVD in the UK.

The full report is due to be published this year.

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