600 extra deaths each week from heart disease and strokes during Winter months

16 February 2016        

Wintery scene

An extra 600 people die each week from heart disease and strokes between December and March across England and Wales, according to latest statistics.

Around 3,000 people die every week from cardiovascular disease (CVD) between December and March in England and Wales, 23% more than the rest of the year.

Last winter (2014/15) saw 9,900 excess winter deaths from CVD, the highest number for six years. However, excess winter deaths have halved since the late 1990s.

During particularly cold weather, we are warning vulnerable people, such as heart patients and the elderly, to look after their health and keep warm.

We are funding research to explain how low temperatures may increase susceptibility to heart attacks and strokes.

There are an estimated 6 million people living with cardiovascular disease (CVD) in England and Wales, and it causes more than a quarter of all deaths.

Professor Peter Weissberg, our Medical Director, said: “We are funding research which will hopefully help us identify the mechanisms that cause more heart attacks and strokes during cold weather.

“We can then use this knowledge to help prevent winter deaths.

“The figures show there is a clear pattern of a higher number of deaths from cardiovascular disease during this time of year.

“That’s why it is particularly important that people living with heart conditions are prepared and keep warm during the winter.”

Cold weather

Very cold weather can affect your heart by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Your heart also has to work much harder to keep your body warm.

Cold temperatures may also cause changes to your blood that can increase the risk of developing blood clots and lead to heart attack and stroke.

Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to a drop in body temperature in the winter months.

Discover Heart Matters 10 ways to keep warm this winter