Fewer people are dying early from heart and circulatory diseases in West Devon, new figures have revealed.

It comes as poorer people across England are increasingly more likely to die early from these conditions.

The British Heart Foundation, which conducted the research, said the nation was "in the grip of a historic heart crisis", and called for every party to make heart disease a priority ahead of the General Election.

Data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities shows there were an average of 123 deaths linked to cardiovascular disease from 2020 to 2022 in West Devon. This was a decrease from 136 in 2017 to 2019.

This gave it a rate of 59 premature deaths per 100,000 people, lower than the English average of 79.

Since 2019, the most deprived areas have seen deaths increase at more than twice the rate of the least deprived.

The poorest 10% of England has a rate of 109 deaths per 100,000, compared with 50 per 100,000 in the wealthiest 10% of areas. This has increased from 94 per 100,000 in the most deprived areas and 45 per 100,000 in the least deprived in 2019.

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the BHF, said: "We’re in the grip of a historic heart crisis.

"Without urgent action, the heart health gap between the richest and poorest will continue to grow even wider. More people will lose loved ones to heart disease through no fault of their own.

"This isn’t a problem that can be solved overnight, but we can start making progress if politicians make heart disease a key health priority."

Men living in the most deprived parts of England saw the biggest increase in premature deaths. Their rate has risen to 153 per 100,000 people, up from 129 in 2019.

In West Devon, the male premature death rate was 88 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 31 for women.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF, pointed to an established link between heart health and wealth, which the BHF has warned can be affected by complications linked to Covid-19 infection and ongoing pressure on the NHS.

"Too many lives are still being lost far too young to heart disease due to this injustice", she said.

"People living in the poorest areas can face poverty, pollution, fewer healthy, accessible and affordable food choices, as well as poorer working and living conditions."

Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of The King’s Fund think tank, said the "heavy toll" of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart disease could be reduced if action was taken early enough.

"Tackling the challenge will require improved access to NHS diagnosis and treatment, particularly in deprived communities", she said.

"But to really get at the root causes, there needs to be a wider package of national measures including bold, cross-government action to reduce risk factors like smoking, drinking, poor diet and lack of exercise."