Diabetes epidemic will trigger “sharp rise” in UK heart attacks and strokes, warns British Heart Foundation


24 Aug 2018 --- The number of people in the UK suffering heart attacks and strokes as a result of their diabetes will rise by 29 percent by 2035, according to new analysis by the British Heart Foundation. This rise is likely to put an “unprecedented burden” on the country’s medical services, with previous estimates suggesting the yearly cost of treating people with diabetes will be £16.9 billion (US$21.7 billion) by 2035, up from £9.8 billion in 2012.

The foundation forecasts that the growing number of people with diabetes could result in nearly 39,000 people living with diabetes suffering a heart attack in 2035 – a rise of 9,000 compared to 2015 – and over 50,000 people suffering a stroke – a rise of 11,000.

The biggest culprits, according to the foundation, are people’s worsening lifestyles and the UK’s growing obesity rates.  

In the UK, the vast majority of people with diabetes have Type 2, with just 10 percent diagnosed with Type 1. People with diabetes are twice to four times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people without diabetes. This means the rise in diabetes cases, is expected to trigger a sharp increase in deadly heart and circulatory problems. 

The rise in diabetes cases will also increase the number of people suffering from conditions including angina and heart failure, the foundation says.

“We can only reverse this trend by taking bold action to tackle obesity and inactivity, especially amongst young people.  This must include consideration of further regulatory action to reduce sugar and fat content in food and to curb junk food advertising directed at young children.  The food industry is not acting quickly enough to re-formulate its products, despite mounting evidence of their impact on the nation’s health,” comments Simon Gillespie, the foundation’s CEO. “We also need continued research that will enable us to better understand how diabetes leads to these deadly heart and circulatory conditions, and how we can stop it.”

Commenting on the predicted figures, Diabetes UK Chief Executive Chris Askew notes: “Cases of Type 2 diabetes continue to rise, and its causes are complex; age, ethnicity and genetics can all contribute to an individual’s risk of the condition. But we also know that – unlike Type 1 diabetes, which cannot be prevented – with the right lifestyle interventions, as many as three in five cases of Type 2 diabetes could be delayed or prevented altogether.”

“The complications of diabetes can be harrowing, but people can greatly reduce their risk of developing them, and should be supported to achieve good management of their blood glucose, blood pressure and blood fats, and to seek help to stop smoking,” he adds. 

Dr. Duane Mellor, Communications Director of the British Dietetic Association (BDA), called for more support for diabetes services.

“Investment now will help prevent much higher acute costs later, as poorly managed diabetes can have significant long-term complications, including heart attacks and strokes as discussed in this study. Losing weight and improving diet continue to be the single biggest factors, in preventing or controlling Type 2 diabetes, and there is not one single way of doing this,” Mellor notes.

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