Black, Hispanic, and Asian Populations Saw a Rise in Cardiac Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A new study found that Black, Hispanic, and Asian populations suffered a disproportionately higher burden of cardiac deaths deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study was published in journal Circulation.  

To conduct this study, researchers obtained monthly cause-of-death data from the National Center for Health Statistics from March 2020 — the point at which states began to experience a rapid spike in COVID-19 cases — through August 2020. Subsequently, the investigators identified deaths caused by cardiac-related diseases during this same time period, and compared the data to the corresponding months in 2019.

Results Highlight Continued Health Disparities

According to the results, Black, Hispanic and Asian populations all experienced about a 19% increase in heart disease deaths, and a 13% increase in cerebrovascular disease deaths in 2020 juxtaposed to 2019. The researchers noted that increase in deaths due to heart disease and cerebrovascular disease was significantly more pronounced among racial and ethnic minority populations compared with the non-Hispanic white population, which only experienced a 2-4% relative increase in deaths due to cardiac events during the height of the COVID pandemic.

“Although the direct toll of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minority groups has been substantial, our findings suggest that Black, Hispanic and Asian populations have also been disproportionately impacted by the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said corresponding author Rishi K. Wadhera, MD, MPP, MPhil, a cardiologist in the Smith Center for Outcomes Research in Cardiology at BIDMC via a press release about the study. “Disruptions in access to health care services during the pandemic may have had a larger impact on the health outcomes of Black and Hispanic individuals, as these populations have a higher burden of cardiovascular risk factors and disease, due in part to structural and systemic inequities. In addition, social determinants of health associated with cardiovascular risk, such as poverty and stress, have worsened in these communities as a result of the pandemic.”

 

“The extent to which disruptions in health care delivery, avoidance of care due to fear of contracting COVID-19 and/or immigration policy, and worsening inequities in social determinants of health have contributed to the increase in heart disease and cerebrovascular deaths remains an important area for future research,” added Dr. Wadhera. “These data highlight that public health and policy strategies are urgently needed to mitigate the short- and long-term adverse effects of the pandemic on the cardiovascular health of minority populations.”