Deaths due to irregular heartbeat are likely to be the cause of more people dying this year than usual – since the number is just above average.

The number of deaths reported in England and Wales due to cardiac arrhythmias was higher than usual in the first half of 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Deaths in this category had the second highest mortality excess figures in March and April, up from the eighth highest in February and the fourth highest in January.

Excess deaths, or extra deaths, are the number of deaths that are above the long-term average for a particular week or month of the year.

There were 234 deaths due to irregular heartbeat registered in March and 138 in April.

In both months, this was the second highest number of excess deaths by cause, which are due only to “ill-defined” conditions – a definition that often covers symptoms that include old age and frailty.

The number of deaths due to irregular heartbeat was 37.1% above average in March and 23.1% in April – a sharp jump from 13.7% in January and 9.2% in February.

Receipts remained high in May and June (39.0% and 17.9%), but the number of excesses in this category was lower, in fifth and eighth place respectively.

Other leading causes contributing to excess deaths this year include ischemic heart disease, diabetes, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

A total of 3,848 excess deaths were recorded in England and Wales in the first half of 2022.

Sarah Caul, ONS head of mortality analysis, said the figure “was driven by higher than expected numbers of deaths from March, which could be caused by a combination of factors.

“During March, April and May we saw an increase in deaths due to cardiac arrhythmias, especially among those aged 80 and over.

“Furthermore, work needs to be done to understand the link between the long-term effects of Covid and the increase in cardiac deaths.”

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It is also possible that a kind of “mortality displacement” exists, with more deaths than average now due to below-average deaths earlier in the year.

“Excess deaths fluctuate over time and when looking at each month in 2022, the number of death levels in January and February is expected to be below,” he added.

Total deaths recorded in England and Wales were 10.3% below average in January and 7.3% below average in February, but were above average in each month from March to June.

May and June saw the highest level of excess mortality, with deaths 15.4% and 8.6% above average respectively.

Covid-19 has only been a part of recent months outside of funerals, the ONS said.

Of the excess deaths in May of 6,473, more than three-quarters (4,897 or 76%) were not due to the coronavirus.

The proportion was even higher in June, with 82% less Covid-19 (2,900 of 3,516).

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