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Heart disease-related deaths at risk of increasing this winter

Thursday 30th November 2017
Deaths from complications attributed to heart disease may rise this winter, new statistics suggest. Image: sanjagrujic via iStock
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A particularly cold winter in the UK could lead to an increase in the number of deaths related to heart disease during the season.

According to new data from the Office for National Statistics, 7,400 additional winter deaths were recorded between December 2016 and March 2017 that were attributed to heart disease or strokes.

This marked a significant increase on the same four-month period of the previous year, when 5,800 extra winter deaths were recorded.

Experts are putting this down largely to the ineffectiveness of last year's flu vaccine, but there are concerns that the number of excess winter deaths could rise once again this year, as the cold weather makes the health of people living with heart disease more vulnerable.

Figures show that there are approximately seven million people in the UK currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease, meaning a potentially significant number of lives are at greater risk as the colder weather sets in.

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), explained: "A drop in temperature causes arteries to constrict, which raises blood pressure and pulse rate - putting additional strain on the heart."

This can make the formation of stroke-inducing clots more likely, as well as increasing an individual's risk of a heart attack.

What's more, research funded by the BHF in the past has found that when it's especially cold for three consecutive days, people who have already been diagnosed with heart disease are almost twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

Meanwhile, for chronic heart disease patients, even a bout of flu could prove fatal during the winter, emphasising the need for all heart disease patients to receive the flu jab.

Dr Knapton concluded: "It is particularly important that people living with heart conditions are well prepared this winter by keeping warm, making sure they have enough food and medications in stock, and going to have their annual flu jab."

Written by Mathew Horton

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