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People with diabetes almost 50% more likely to have heart attacks

Diabetes UK is calling for urgent action as new figures reveal that people with diabetes are 48 per cent more likely to have heart attacks than the rest of the population.

According to the new National Diabetes Audit report, 14,476 of those included in the audit had a heart attack during 2010/11, which is 4,694 more than expected. The real number of diabetes-related heart attacks will be even higher, as over 10 per cent of people with the condition are not included in the audit, and the figures only cover people in England and Wales.

Cholesterol targets missed

While it is well known that heart disease is a complication of diabetes, the new report has shown for the first time how much having diabetes increases risk of a heart attack.

We are urging the NHS to respond to the report by focusing more on providing the education and care to prevent diabetes-related heart disease. At the moment, just 40.7 per cent of people with diabetes are meeting the recommended cholesterol levels, and 10 per cent are not getting the annual cholesterol check recommended by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence. Many people with the condition also have high blood pressure and blood glucose levels, which also increase the risk of heart disease.

Other findings

The report’s other findings include:

  • 22,000 people with diabetes in England and Wales died early in 2010/11
  • The death rate among people with Type 1 diabetes is 135 per cent higher than national rate
  • People with diabetes are 65 per cent more likely to have heart failure than the rest of the population
  • They were more than 25 per cent more likely to have a stroke and twice as likely to need dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Tragic situation

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said, "The finding that people with diabetes are almost 50 per cent more likely to have a heart attack is shocking; this is one of the main reasons many thousands of people with the condition are dying before their time.

"It is a tragedy that a large proportion of these thousands of extra heart attacks could have been prevented simply through better education, treatment and care. We hope this report spurs the NHS into action to improve the current situation where fewer than half of people with diabetes meet the recommended cholesterol levels, and a significant minority are not even having it measured.

Annual checks

"We want everyone with diabetes to get their cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose checked once a year and for this to be the start of a process of supporting the person to achieve healthy levels of these. Unless this happens, people with diabetes will continue to be at much greater risk of heart attacks.

"Not just a wake-up call"

"But this report is not just a wake-up call for diabetes-related heart disease. It lays bare how people with diabetes are at greatly increased risk of complications such as amputation, stroke, kidney failure and blindness. As well as the devastating effect these can have on people’s quality of life, diabetes is causing too many people to die as a result of these complications. Giving priority to tackling diabetes is a must for the Government and NHS if they are to have any significant effect on reducing the number of people dying early in the UK.

"Give diabetes the priority it deserves"

"As well as the human impact, these complications are so expensive that 80% of the £10 billion the NHS spends on diabetes goes on treating them. Yet it is a tragic example of short-termism that barely half of people with the condition are getting the nine checks that could prevent many of these complications developing.

"We want the Government to finally give diabetes the priority it deserves – until this happens, we will continue to spend vast sums of money on treating preventable complications and will continue to see many thousands of people dying unnecessarily early."

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