Deaths from heart disease and conditions such as stroke and artery disease have risen for the first time in 50 years among under-75s, figures show.
Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity are all playing a role in driving up death rates among younger people, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said.
A new report from the charity said the historic pace of progress in reducing death rates “has slowed to a near standstill”, with heart and circulatory disease deaths in people under 75 now on the rise.
In Scotland, one in seven men and nearly one in ten women die from cardiovascular disease each year, which is higher than other nations in the UK. It costs the NHS in Scotland an estimated £800 million each year.
Millions of people are also living with undiagnosed conditions including high blood pressure and diabetes that increases their risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke.
“These factors, combined with a growing population, mean that increasing numbers of people are now dying from heart and circulatory diseases before their 75th or even 65th birthdays for the first time in more than 50 years,” the report said.
In 2017, 42,384 people died from heart and circulatory diseases in the UK before the age of 75, a rise of just over 3 per cent on the 41,042 in 2014.
Among under-65s, there were 18,668 deaths in 2017, up almost 4 per cent on the 17,982 five years earlier.
In the five-year period beforehand, there had been a 19 per cent decline among under-65s.
The shift represents a real slowdown – until recently, death rates for heart and circulatory disease had seen a 75 per cent cut since 1971.
Circulatory diseases include stroke and diseases of the arteries. They include peripheral arterial disease, aortic aneurysm and carotid artery disease.
The BHF has issued a new ambition for the UK to halve premature death and disability from stroke, while increasing heart attack survival to 90 per cent by 2030.
Cardiovascular disease causes more than a quarter (27 per cent) of all deaths in Scotland, or more than 15,000 deaths each year and is Scotland’s single biggest killer.
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the BHF, said the government must work with health authorities and researchers to look at ways to improve the situation.
He said: “In the UK we’ve made phenomenal progress in reducing the number of people who die of a heart attack or stroke.
“But we’re seeing more people die each year from heart and circulatory diseases in the UK before they reach their 75th, or even 65th, birthday. We are deeply concerned by this reversal.
“Heart and circulatory diseases remain a leading cause of death in the UK, with millions at risk because of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
“We need to work in partnership with governments, the NHS and medical research community to increase research investment and accelerate innovative approaches to diagnose and support the millions of people at risk of a heart attack or stroke.”