Recent data indicate an alarming trend of increased mortality during winter as a result of heart and circulatory diseases.
Analysis of the latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics done by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) showed that an additional 11,500 deaths associated with heart and circulatory diseases occurred in England and Wales last winter. This translates to a 55% increase in heart and circulatory disease-related winter deaths compared with the previous winter.
The figures indicate ~50,100 excess winter deaths between December 2017 and March 2018, the highest ever in the last 40 years. Heart and circulatory diseases, including heart attacks and strokes accounted for one-fifth of these excess deaths. The significant increase in excess deaths could be attributed to the last winter being colder than the long-term average for the United Kingdom. A strong influenza (flu) strain and an inadequately effective flu vaccine last season may have contributed to the excess mortality.
Individuals aged >75 years are particularly at risk of dying due to heart and circulatory diseases during the winter months, since there is an extra burden on the heart to keep the body warm. Low temperatures are also believed to increase the risk of developing blood clots. Flu is also responsible for compromising the respiratory system, consequently affecting the heart. BHF is urging all individuals aged >65 years and those with heart or respiratory diseases to get the flu vaccine.