A recent report by the American Heart Association has found that the COVID-19 pandemic indirectly led to the largest increase in cardiovascular-related deaths in the U.S.
The data report, published Wednesday in the journal Circulation, found that 2020, the first year of the pandemic, saw the most number of cardiovascular-related deaths since 2003.
The report titled “Heart disease and stroke statistics–2023 update: A report from the American Heart Association” also found that the largest increase in deaths was seen among Asian, Black, and Hispanic people.
Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that includes coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and hypertension. Coronary heart disease is caused by blocked arteries of the heart or atherosclerosis, which can cause a heart attack.
Generally called just “heart disease,” coronary issues cause the most number of deaths in the U.S., followed by cancer, COVID-19, and unintentional injuries/accidents.
Going into detail, the number of people dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the U.S. jumped from 874,613 CVD-related deaths in 2019 to 928,741 in 2020. This increase is the largest single-year rise since 2015, and broke the record of 910,000 CVD-related deaths recorded in 2003, according to the report.
“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%,” the volunteer chair of the Statistical Update writing group Connie W. Tsao, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said, reported SciTechDaily.
The age-adjusted mortality rate factors in the number of older adults from one year to another in the population. For instance, if one year’s population comprised more older adults, it follows that one might expect higher rates of death in that demographic.
“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,” Tsao commented.
According to the American Heart Association’s volunteer president, Michelle A. Albert, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), while an increase in overall cardiovascular deaths is “disheartening,” it is not unexpected. The Association had predicted this trend, which has now become official.
“We also know that many 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,” Albert noted.