Prioritise heart checks on diabetes patients to cut early deaths, GPs told

GPs should focus on improving the cardiovascular health of diabetes patients, according to a major review that shows they are over twice as likely to be admitted to hospital for heart failure and other cardiac problems.

BP check: heart health key for diabetes patients (Photo: Jim Varney)
BP check: heart health key for diabetes patients (Photo: Jim Varney)

As many as one in five people admitted to hospital for angina, stroke, heart attack and heart failure have diabetes, the latest National Diabetes Audit (NDA) report reveals.

The report, released on Thursday, calls for the prevention, detection and treatment of heart failure to be built into annual care planning of the disease. This should include systematic review of smoking, exercise, weight, BP and cholesterol, it said.

Estimates place the blame on diabetes for almost 24,000 premature deaths in England and Wales in 2013.

These deaths – easily preventable, according to the report – were largely a result of years of poorly managed glucose, BP and cholesterol levels, all signs of insufficiently controlled diabetes.

Fatal complications

The report’s figures show that patients with diabetes were over twice as likely (131%) to die in 2013 compared to their peers who did not have the disease. People with type 2 diabetes were 32% more likely to die.

Despite the high numbers, there are early signs that numbers of diabetes patients experiencing these complications may be on the fall. But ‘significant geographical variations’ in care across England and Wales are causing some patients to be at much greater risk of developing complications or dying prematurely.

Having diabetes also has a ‘serious impact’ on the likelihood of developing conditions such as advanced kidney disease, amputations and strokes, the report adds.

It found that patients were five times as likely to be admitted to hospital for a major amputation and over nine times as likely to be admitted for a minor amputation.

Must prevent complications

Dr Bob Young, clinical lead for the NDA said: ‘The findings show that high complication rates for patients with diabetes lead to increased hospital admissions and also increase mortality.

‘If we can prevent these complications from occurring then this would have a huge impact on the number of hospital admissions across the NHS.’

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