The diabetes heartache: 2.4 million people at risk of premature death

A new report out today, Diabetes Heartache, the hard reality of cardiovascular care for people with diabetes, shows that up to 2.4 million people with diabetes are at risk of dying of cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as heart disease or stroke, if nothing is done to improve awareness, prevention and treatment. Diabetes is second only to smoking as the leading cause of CVD in the UK.


A new report out today, Diabetes Heartache, the hard reality of cardiovascular care for people with diabetes, shows that up to 2.4 million people with diabetes are at risk of dying of cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as heart disease or stroke, if nothing is done to improve awareness, prevention and treatment.  Diabetes is second only to smoking as the leading cause of CVD in the UK.

For the first time Diabetes UK has assessed how well all the risk factors for CVD are currently managed in people with diabetes in the UK and found that many people are failing to reach the recommended treatment targets for key risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol despite the fact that official guidelines* show that treatment is proven to significantly reduce heart attacks and strokes.

As diabetes rates continue to soar, the Diabetes UK report shows that lives are still being put at risk needlessly and calls for better awareness of the link between diabetes and increased cardiovascular risk. Currently only 28% of the general public and 47% of people with diabetes realise that diabetes can lead to heart disease.  Improved access to education and appropriate early medical treatment, when necessary, for people with diabetes are also needed to help significantly improve long-term health. 

Simon O’Neill, Director of Care, Information & Advocacy Services at Diabetes UK, said “This is a national emergency as half of the people who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes already show sign of cardiovascular disease at the time of diagnosis. Heart disease is the most common complication of diabetes. It is essential we take immediate steps to ensure people have access to the appropriate care and treatment. We want to see better information for the newly diagnosed as well as improved access to education courses and dietetic and lifestyle advice.”

Currently, although studies such as CARDS** have shown that most people with Type 2 diabetes would benefit from medication to help lower their cholesterol levels along with lifestyle and diet measures, the report shows that just 60 per cent of people with diabetes are recorded to be receiving the cholesterol lowering drug statins.

Professor John Betteridge, CARDS study investigator, says “It is important that what we have learned from clinical trials is put into action, so that individual patients benefit and their CVD risk is decreased. Premature CVD is largely preventable by intensive attention to modifiable risk factors”.

Diabetes UK would also like the tighter cholesterol guidelines issued in 2005 by the Joint Bristish Societies* to be officially recognised by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). This recommends  that people with diabetes be treated to cholesterol targets of total cholesterol less than 4 mmol/l and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol less than 2 mmol/l. High blood pressure and cholesterol levels are key risk factors for CVD.

The Diabetes Heartache, the hard reality of cardiovascular care for people with diabetes report will be sent to several decision-makers within Government and the NHS to raise awareness of the topic further. Copies of the report can be downloaded from the Diabetes Website at www.diabetes.org.uk.

This report has been kindly sponsored by Pfizer Ltd. Pfizer Ltd also provided gift-in-kind support for the production of the report. All final approvals stayed with Diabetes UK.

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