Cardiovascular disease deaths and disparities increased in 2020

A medical image of the human circulatory system

Deaths related to cardiovascular disease – such as heart attack and stroke – increased during the pandemic and disproportionately affected Black, Hispanic, and Asian adults, according to research published in Circulation.

Based on a review of U.S. deaths between March and August 2020, approximately 339,076 people died from heart disease, and 76,767 people died from cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood vessels that support the brain and connected systems. The 2020 changes reflect a 2% relative increased risk of dying from heart disease and a 4% relative increased risk of dying from cerebrovascular disease among white adults. For Black, Hispanic, and Asian adults, these risks rose to 20% for heart disease and 13% for cerebrovascular disease. 

Delayed or missed medical appointments for conditions that affect heart and vascular health, like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, could account for increased cardiovascular disease risks. Therefore, the authors note sharing the message that hospitals are safe places to receive care is important. In other instances, especially for adults living in areas hardest hit by the pandemic, hospitals may have been limited with care they provided to patients without COVID-19. Indirect impacts of the pandemic, like added stress, financial hardship, and, for some, an inability to access food benefits and medical care, may explain other risk factors. The authors conclude public health programs and policies may help mitigate cardiovascular disease risks related to the pandemic. The study was supported by the NHLBI.