Heart disease deaths increased in 2020 for the first time in a decade – with a rise so dramatic it reversed five years of progress fighting America’s leading killer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) led study found that 325 of every 100,000 Americans died of heart disease in 2020 – a four per cent rise from 2019.
This figure ends a decades-long trend of heart disease deaths going down in the US, and brings back mortality rate figures to where they were in 2015 – losing progress.
Lockdowns around the country restricted Americans’ access to medical care, leading to thousands of ancillary deaths from conditions other than Covid.
Heart disease is the leading killer of Americans and remained so throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC reports that the disease killed 696,962 people in 2020, nearly double the 350,000 deaths caused by Covid itself.
Death rates from heart disease had been declining in the US since data first started to be tracked in the 1990s, the researchers write.
Deaths from heart disease, already the leading killer of Americans, increased across the board as a result of lockdowns in 2020 – reversing downward trends that had existed for decades
‘Prior to 2020, death rates from heart disease had been declining among adults for decades, which has been recognized by the CDC as one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the last century,’ Dr Rebecca Woodruff, a CDC epidemiologist said in a statement.
‘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.’
When COVID-19 first erupted across the US in March 2020, many doctors appointments were cancelled out of fear of the virus.
This lead to many missing important appointments, screenings and surgeries, and stopping early intervention by health care professionals from saving lives.
While Covid accounted for 90% of excess deaths in the U.S. during the pandemic’s first year, there was also a surge in deaths caused by cancer, heart and cognitive conditions, the CDC reports
The disastrous effects lockdowns had on Americans’ health
Lockdowns and pandemic related restrictions inflicted on the US population in 2020 have had devastating long-term affects.
Experts are warning that this year’s flu season will the worst in years as many do no have natural immunity from the virus after it failed to circulate in recent years.
Some have even warned of a ‘tripledemic’ of the flu, RSV and Covid emerging during fall and winter this year.
Drug overdose deaths surged during Covid as well, reaching over 100,000 in 2021 alone – with fentanyl the main culprit.
Disruptions to Alzheimer’s care caused by lockdowns are linked to the 16 per cent jump in deaths from the condition experienced in 2021.
Cancer deaths increased as well, according to CDC data, with cases being diagnosed later than before and sometimes after medical intervention could prevent the disease from spreading.
The mental health of many Americans was devastated as well, with 56 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to CDC data.
School closures also reportedly disrupted the social development of young children and caused mental health issues as well.
Studies also found decreased rates of physical activity, increasing risk of diabetes and youth among young people as well.
‘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,’ Dr Woodruff continued.
‘We expected to see an increase in heart disease death rates among adults, however the magnitude of the increase was striking.’
Researchers found that the national heart disease death rate dropped 9.8 per cent from 2010 to 2019 – from 347.3 to 313 deaths per 100,000 Americans.
In 2020, the figure rose 4.1 per cent, with a large portion of this rise made up by younger adults.
For people aged 35 to 54, a group that suffers the lowest rates, deaths from the condition fell 5.5 per cent from 2010 to 2019.
In 2020, the figure grew by 12 per cent in 2020.
A similar, yet smaller, growth was detected in middle-aged Americans as well. There was a 2.3 per cent drop in deaths from 2010 to 2019, before a 7.8 per cent rise in 2020.
On top of lockdowns, experts also speculate that poor diets, abuse of drugs and alcohol and less physical activity caused heart problems to jump in 2020.
Heart disease was not the only condition that worsened during the pandemic.
Official CDC data shows an increase in deaths from respiratory disease, circulatory disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other causes as well.
Studies have also found that while cancer diagnosis decreased, detected cases are often more deadly as they are not being found until later in the disease’s development.
There has also been a marked surge in mental health issues like anxiety and depression in the US, especially among young people and children.
The Alzheimer’s Society also warns that lockdowns cause a rapid decline in the condition in people already diagnosed.
The Alzheimer’s Association reports that deaths from the disease jumped by 16 per cent in 2021, with the jump linked to disruptions to treatment the previous year.