Articles about heart attack risks do not show causality

7 July 2022
What was claimed

You can’t do anything without risking a heart attack now.

Our verdict

The articles used to support this claim do not prove that certain factors are causing heart attacks, or that the risk of heart attacks is increasing. The post may imply heart attacks are connected to Covid-19 vaccines, but there is no evidence of this.

A Facebook post shared almost 900 times includes a number of news articles about heart attacks and cardiovascular disease and says: “Seems you can’t do anything without risking a heart attack now.”

The post claims that this is the “new normal”. While the post doesn’t explicitly say this is due to vaccines, we have seen several examples of misinformation about heart attacks and the Covid vaccines on social media recently, and this post appears to be implying something similar. Many of these other posts have suggested that Covid-19 vaccines are causing these heart conditions, however there is no evidence that this is the case. In the comments of this Facebook post, many users also (incorrectly) make this connection.

Some studies have found a potential increased risk of myocarditis and pericarditis (heart inflammation) associated with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said of this risk: “These reports are very rare, and the events reported are typically mild with individuals usually recovering within a short time with standard treatment and rest.”

All of the articles shown in the image shared on Facebook are real. Seven of them were published this year, four in 2021 and one before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019. However, this is not evidence that the risk of heart attacks is increasing.

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Articles do not show increased risk of heart attacks

Of the articles, the majority are reporting on studies drawing links between a particular food, habit, or environmental factor and the risk of heart disease, heart attacks or cardiac arrest, including drinking energy drinks, gardening and shovelling snow. However, the articles primarily refer to studies which show only possible links between these things, not ones which prove causality.

Only two of the articles included in the collection include any reference to the Covid-19 pandemic. One of these, an article in The Times, was about a study which found socially isolated or lonely older women were more likely to develop heart disease and did not look into Covid-19 or the Covid-19 vaccines.

The other, also published in The Times, was not based on a study, but instead quoted Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist and chairman of charity the Public Health Collaboration, who said that most likely explanations for a rise in heart attacks in west Scotland was “a combination of poor diet and quite significant psycho-social stress that has been caused as a result of the pandemic and lockdown, the isolation”, and also referenced reports of links between the vaccines and blood clotting, which we have previously written about.

The MHRA has recorded 81 deaths from a type of blood clot that it has said may be linked with the AstraZeneca vaccine. It has described these cases as “extremely rare”.

One of the articles, published by the New York Post, references a study which did not show a link to heart attacks or heart disease at all. The study in question instead suggested that sleeping with ambient light was associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes, obesity and hypertension.

According to the British Heart Foundation, heart and circulatory disease is responsible for around one quarter of all deaths in the UK. The Foundation also states there is no evidence people are at increased risk of cardiac arrest following the Covid-19 vaccine.

The Office for National Statistics reports that there were 52,821 deaths from ischaemic heart disease registered in 2021—broadly in line with the five-year average between 2015 and 2019, which was 53,429.

The Facebook post also claims that “no post mortems” are being carried out on people who die of heart attacks. According to the NHS, post-mortems are carried out either “because the cause of death is unknown, or following a sudden, violent or unexpected death,” which, depending on the circumstances, could include people who died of a heart attack.

Image courtesy of Robin Weermeijer

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