Prior to 2020, death rates from heart disease had been declining among adults for decades in the US but the increases in death rates from heart disease, particularly high among younger adults, spiked during the Covid pandemic, erasing years of progress, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed.
Death rates from heart disease in the US had been declining among adults since at least the 1990s.
However, a review of data in 2020 found that heart disease death rates increased across adults in all age groups, sex, race and ethnicity groups, particularly among younger adults and non-Hispanic Black adults, according to the lead study author Rebecca C. Woodruff from the CDC.
"The increases in death rates from heart disease in 2020 represented about 5 years of lost progress among adults nationwide and about 10 years of lost progress among younger adults and non-Hispanic Black adults," said Woodruff.
The preliminary research is set to be presented at the American Heart Association's 'Scientific Sessions 2022' in Chicago from November 5-7.
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted many aspects of daily life, including access to preventive health care, which may have led to delays in detecting and treating heart disease.
"We expected to see an increase in heart disease death rates among adults, however the magnitude of the increase was striking," Woodruff added.
From 2010 to 2019, the national heart disease death rate dropped by 9.8 per cent. However, in 2020, the rate increased by 4.1 per cent.
Increases in heart disease death rates were particularly high among younger adults, who experienced approximately 10 years of lost progress.
Among 35- to 54-year-old adults, deaths from heart disease fell by 5.5 per cent from 2010 to 2019, yet they jumped by 12 per cent in 2020.
Among 55- to 74-year-old adults, heart disease death rates were down by 2.3 per cent between 2010 to 2019, yet they increased by 7.8 per cent in 2020, the findings showed.
Researchers also noted that while the findings need further investigation, growing evidence suggests people who have had Covid-19 infection may be at an increased risk for new or worsening cardiovascular disease, which may have been a factor in the rising rates from 2019 to 2020.
Other factors associated with the pandemic lockdown, such as lack of physical activity, increased smoking and increased alcohol use, all contributed to the higher cardiovascular death rates, said American Heart Association President Michelle A. Albert.
"These social determinants of health have a larger effect on people who are economically disadvantaged, Black people, Hispanic people and indigenous and native individuals, so then you have a domino effect resulting in higher death rates and more disease among these populations," Albert said.
Woodruff added that the CDC is actively investigating heart disease trends after 2020 to see how the trends have evolved.