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Excess heart and circulatory deaths up 55 per cent last winter

Monday 24th December 2018
The number of excess deaths from heart and circulatory disease spiked more last winter than usual.
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The number of excess deaths from heart and circulatory disease last winter was up 55 per cent on the previous winter, new figures have revealed. 

Data provided by the Office for National Statistics put the seasonal spike in deaths at 11,500, compared with 7,500 in the winter of 2016-17 and 5,800 in 2015-16. The figure works out at 650 deaths per week during winter. 

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) blamed the colder-than-usual conditions seen last winter for the elevated number of deaths. 

Like other causes of death, the number of fatalities caused by cardiovascular episodes increases during the winter as the cold weather increases the vulnerability of many people, especially those older than 75. Last winter, 8,500 of the extra deaths occurred in this demographic. 

Among the reasons for this are that the body has to work harder to maintain body temperature on the cold, leading to increases in heart rate and blood pressure. Cold weather can also cause changes to the blood, making clots more likely.

People suffering from flu symptoms are also more vulnerable to heart attacks, making it wise for them to get the flu jab to reduce this risk.

Senior cardiac nurse at the BHF Christopher Allen said: “Research shows that the elderly are more at risk during the winter months. So, make sure that you reach out to your loved ones this festive period and check that they’re staying safe and warm. Small measures, such as keeping your home no lower than 18  degrees C and eating and drinking plenty of hot meals and drinks can make all the difference.”

Last winter's figures may have been exacerbated by an unusually cold spring, with March having the coldest weather of all when the 'Beast from the East' struck. 

The winter was also unusually bad for flu, with one particularly virulent strain arriving from Australia.

Written by Matthew Horton

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