The number of people dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the US escalated during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, from 874,613 CVD-related deaths recorded in 2019 to 928,741 in 2020, a new study has revealed.
The rise in the number of CVD deaths in 2020 represents the largest single-year increase since 2015 and topped the previous high of 910,000 recorded in 2003, according to the data published in American Heart Association’s flagship, peer-reviewed journal Circulation.
It means that more people died from cardiovascular-related causes in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, than in any year since 2003, according to data reported in Association’s 2023 Statistical Update. The largest increases in deaths were seen among Asian, Black and Hispanic people.
“While the total number of CVD-related deaths increased from 2019 to 2020, what may be even more telling is that our age-adjusted mortality rate increased for the first time in many years and by a fairly substantial 4.6 per cent,” said Connie W. Tsao, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“I think that is very indicative of what has been going on within our country, and the world, in light of people of all ages being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially before vaccines were available to slow the spread,” said Tsao, also an attending staff cardiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
There was a substantial increase in the loss of lives from all causes since the start of the pandemic. “That this likely translated to an increase in overall cardiovascular deaths, while disheartening, is not surprising. In fact, the Association predicted this trend, which is now official,” said Michelle A. Albert, the American Heart Association’s volunteer president and a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).
The virus is associated with new clotting and inflammation.
Several people who had new or existing heart disease and stroke symptoms were reluctant to seek medical care, particularly in the early days of the pandemic.
“This resulted in people presenting with more advanced stages of cardiovascular conditions and needing more acute or urgent treatment for what may have been manageable chronic conditions. And, sadly, appears to have cost many their lives,” said Albert.
Cardiovascular disease continues to be the top killer globally, taking the lives of more than 19 million people around the world each year, including people of all ages, genders and nationalities.