There were 7,400 extra winter deaths from heart disease and strokes between December 2016 and March 2017, according to new statistics. This was an increase of 1,600, up from 5,800 extra winter deaths during winter 2015-2016.
A bad flu season may be to blame for this year’s increase. The flu vaccine was not as effective as usual, and offered little protection to vulnerable elderly patients. People with chronic heart disease are much more likely to die if they develop flu compared to healthy individuals.
Cold temperatures can also put strain on the heart, thicken the blood and make clot formation more likely which can increase the chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
BHF funded research has revealed during three day cold spells, events such as heart attacks and strokes are almost twice as likely as during shorter colder periods.
Stay well this winter
Dr Mike Knapton, our Associate Medical Director, said:
“Cold weather kills and these figures paint a worrying picture for winter in the UK. A drop in temperature causes arteries to constrict, which raises blood pressure and pulse rate - putting additional strain on the heart. This can put people at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke, especially if you have an illness such as flu.”
“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."
There are around 7 million people living with cardiovascular disease in the UK.
These new statistics are available on the ONS website.