• Tuesday, February 07, 2023

HEALTH

Pandemic amplified heart-linked deaths

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

Patients’ inability to get preventive drugs during the pandemic has contributed to the surge in excess deaths since the spring, experts believe.

Sir Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, warned ministers that several middle-aged people are dying of heart conditions because they did not get blood pressure medicines during the pandemic, The Times reported.

Currently, there have been weekly about 800 excess deaths – the number of people dying above the five-year average – with only half of the number being attributed to Covid.

Whitty is believed to have highlighted Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures that showed 5,170 non-Covid excess deaths in the past two years in men aged 50-64, a group that benefited hugely from preventive heart treatments in recent years.

Senior doctors agree that advice to stay away from the NHS during the pandemic could have contributed to the current excess deaths. Unhealthy lifestyles during the pandemic when millions cut down on exercise and drank more and the shift to online appointments may also be contributing to the trend, they feel.

The Times quoted Kamila Hawthorne, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, as saying: “During the pandemic, NHS services were disrupted and in some cases patients, for a variety of reasons that included anxieties around contracting Covid and interpretation of public messaging to protect the NHS, did not come forward. As a result, some people who would have been recommended preventative health interventions may not have been.”

Sonya Babu-Narayan of the British Heart Foundation said: “The longer a heart patient waits for treatment, the more likely it is that their condition could worsen . . . and because people have not had the check-ups they would routinely have before the pandemic, many remain unaware that they have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, putting them at a greater risk of early death from a heart attack or stroke.”

The Department of Health has said it is improving care and outcomes for people with heart disease by opening over 91 community diagnostic centres across the country.

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