The collateral damage of COVID-19: cardiovascular disease, the next pandemic wave

Evidence and data collected during the pandemic outbreak show that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD).

In Italy, for instance, the fear of contagion has tripled the mortality rate due to heart attacks from 4.1% to 13.7%. A situation that risks of burning 20 years of prevention. The cause? According to the Italian Society of Cardiology (Sic), the causes range from lack of care (the reduction in hospitalizations was of 60%) to delays (times increased by 39%), linked to the fear of contagion. The data is the result of a national study of Sic, conducted in 54 hospitals.

Although the Covid pandemic was concentrated in the north of Italy, the reduction in hospitalizations for heart attacks has been homogeneously recorded throughout the country: 52.1% in the North and South and 59.3% in the Centre. Heart attacks and strokes kill 240,000 people every year in Italy and represent the first cause of death and disability.

Abroad, the number of heart attack patients seeking urgent hospital care has dropped by more than 50% during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to an extensive worldwide survey by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

According to the European Society of Cardiology, the effects of COVID-19 on cardiovascular health are multifaceted and triggered by different factors including:

  • Patient vulnerability and lack of assurance that safe in-hospital wards will be provided to non-COVID patients: CVD patients infected with COVID-19 have increased rates of complications and death.

Because of this, high risk CVD patients such as those experiencing a heart attack or stroke have been reluctant to seek help resulting in a significant reduction in admission for heart attacks and stroke in Europe and elsewhere and an increase in preventable death and disability.

  • Increased pressure on ambulance services: this has resulted in late presentation to the hospital of heart attacks and stroke patients – often too late to benefit from life-saving treatments.

  • Re-prioritisation of hospital resources: this has significantly decreased access to cardiovascular services and elective procedures as well as led to a drastic reduction in the availability of cardiac surgery.

  • COVID-19 and CVD are closely intertwined. With the SARS-CoV-2 infection still not being under control, understanding and addressing the collateral damage of COVID-19 on CVD is crucial if we want to prevent CVD being the next pandemic wave.

Over the last 15 years,
Cittadinanzattiva has been increasing its contributions for the prevention of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases through actions at the national and EU level as better described in our dedicated webpages (ENIT).

In particular, for many years Cittadinanzattiva, through its European branch Active Citizenship Network, has been committed to raise awareness campaigns and international networks, including “Sign Against Stroke In Atrial Fibrillation” and the “World Heart Day”, and it has been involved in initiatives of information and updating on the cerebral/cardiovascular risk: heart attack, stroke, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, coronary artery disease (CAD), peripheral artery disease (ADP), etc.

This has allowed us to broaden our knowledge, but it has also made us aware of the deep discrepancy existing with regards to the level of information, skills & specific competences, incisiveness of the output and outcomes, etc. between the associations that are devoted - almost exclusively - to CVDs and those patients’ rights associations which do not have specific competences in these thematic areas.

Consequently, we intend to contribute to fill - at least partially - this divide, and at the same time to increase the awareness of a growing number of patients’ rights associations on the importance of the prevention and management of pathologies correlated to cardiovascular protection, as well as on the new available therapeutic options today.

This project will focus on stroke, and it could be considered the ideally follow up of the multi annual EU project on cardiovascular disease, realized with the support of 3 EU expert networks (including SAFE-Stroke Alliance for Europe), the scientific support of the Italian Society of HCPs and 20 organizations coming from 15 Countries. More detail in our webpage.


  1. "Stroke prevention & Life after stroke, during the Pandemic": an EU training webinar addressed to the leaders of civic patients’ associations from different European countries. The training session is planned next 29 of October 2021 from 11.00 to 13.00 CEST. To register & participate, click here. Details:

  • Attendees: leaders of PAGs & civic associations coming from EU Member States & outside.

  • The main objective is to provide an overview in order to respond to the needs:

    1. to be more up to date and prepared in the face of a phenomenon that has turned to topical relevance;

    2. to know how to recognize and share the official sources of information to identify, recognize, and combat the main risk factors (pre-stroke) and to be aware of patients’ rights (pre and after a stroke);

    3. to discuss and address the main challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent and to live after a stroke;

    4. to be better equipped to protect rights and promote policies, at EU and local level.

  1. "Knowing your patients' rights and come back to cure”: an EU social media awareness campaign as a follow up of the training webinar on the main key messages to spread across the Member States. Details:

  • A campaign co-created with the direct involvement of associations and experts engaged in the training.

  • Focused on the positive, emotional values of stroke prevention to send clear messages on the topic directly from citizens to citizens.

  • To be realized thanks to a collection of statements & pictures of the leaders of Patients Advocacy Groups (PAGs) and civic organizations engaged in the training.

  1. Partnership promotion to reinforce the civic patients associations’ engagement on the stroke-related policy at the national and EU level. Details:

  • SAFE-Stroke Alliance for Europe will be invited as an expert partner to show its great experience on the issue of stroke.


The project will be realized thanks to the unconditional support of BMS-Pfizer Alliance

BMS Pfizer Alliance Logo

The commitment of Cittadinanzattiva-Active Citizenship Network in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases (ENIT)


To know more:


To know more please contact the Project Manager Maira Cardillo at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(page updated on November 2021)

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