11,500 people died of heart disease last winter 'due to ineffective flu jab and freezing temperatures'

11,500 people died of heart disease last winter 'due to ineffective flu jab and freezing temperatures'

December 21, 2018

An additional 11,500 people in England and Wales died last winter due to  heart and circulatory disease-related winter deaths compared to the previous winter, according to the British Heart Foundation.

It's the highest number of deaths over winter in 40 years.

In 2016/17, there were 7,510 excess winter deaths and in 2015/16, there were 5,800, Office of National Statistics figures reveal.

In total there were an extra 50,100 winter deaths from December 2017 to March 2018.

Of these, 11,500 extra winter deaths were caused by heart and circulatory diseases – such as heart attacks and strokes – that's more than one in five deaths.

An ineffective flu jab against a stronger strain of flu and colder than usual temperatures are to blame for the spike in deaths, the British Heart Foundation said.

The charity is urging anyone over the age of 65 to make sure they've had their flu jab this year.

The people most at risk from dying of heart and circulatory diseases during the winter months are those over 75 years.

An extra 8,500 people in that age bracket died last winter.

The British Heart Foundation is warning that the colder months of winter can be dangerous for people with underlying heart conditions, as the heart needs to work harder to pump blood around the body to keep it warm.

This can lead to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to heart problems.

The cold temperature can also cause changes to the blood, increasing the risk of developing blood clots, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Christopher Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Last winter took a grim toll on people with heart and circulatory diseases, and shows just how important high uptake of an effective flu jab is.

"We know that flu vaccines can reduce the risk of cardiovascular death in people living with coronary heart disease by around a quarter, so it is absolutely vital that people living with these conditions protect themselves.

"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 18C and eating and drinking plenty of hot meals and drinks can make all the difference."

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