Boom in diabetes diagnoses on the horizon, warns NHS and charity

Around 5.3 million people in the UK are expected to be living with diabetes by 2025, following a stark increase in the number of diagnoses over the past year.

The charity Diabetes UK claimed that more than 100,000 more people received a diabetes diagnosis over the past 12 months, taking the total number of people with the condition to 3.9 million.

Meanwhile, the NHS has warned that 1.9 million people registered with a GP in England are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes as they have non-diabetic hyperglycaemia. This is the highest figure for this condition on record.

Ninety per cent of those with diabetes have the type 2 variant, which increases their risk of dying prematurely by 50%, according to Diabetes UK. People with type 2 diabetes are also two to two-and-a-half times more likely to experience heart failure and twice more likely to have a heart attack compared to people without diabetes.

The charity also estimates that there are almost one million more people living with the type 2 variant but who have not yet received a diagnosis, bringing the total number of people thought to have diabetes up to 4.8 million.

The NHS suggests that the growing number of diabetes diagnoses could see 39,000 additional people suffer a heart attack and 50,000 more experience a stroke in 2035.

Diabetes UK chief executive Chris Askew said: “Type 2 diabetes is an urgent public health crisis, and solving it depends on decisive action that’s led by government, supported by industry and delivered across our society.

“More than half of all cases of type 2 diabetes − and the accompanying risk of developing devastating complications − could be prevented or delayed by supporting people to make healthier choices. This includes mandating industry to make food and drinks healthier and addressing the marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods.

“At the same time, we need to help people understand their personal risk of type 2 diabetes and find tailored clinical support to reduce it.”

Obesity is the single greatest risk factor to developing type 2 diabetes, responsible for 80 to 85% of someone’s level of risk in developing the condition, according to the charity. Obesity in England has almost doubled over the past two decades, from 6.9 to 13 million people.

Around half a million people have been referred to the NHS’s Diabetes Prevention Programme, which identifies people at high risk of diabetes and supports them to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Low-calorie liquid diets that have been shown to put recently-diagnosed type 2 diabetes into remission, will be rolled out by the NHS to 5,000 people from April. The programme sees patients consume just 800 calories per day for three months, followed by a further nine months of weight loss support.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Our bulging waistlines mean two million people are now at risk of joining the expanding ranks of those living with largely preventable type 2 diabetes.

“The NHS’s highly successful, world-leading diabetes prevention programme is helping hundreds of thousands of people take small common sense steps to get control of their own health. But unless many more of us make a change, obesity-related illnesses will end up costing hundreds of thousands more lives and billions of pounds in higher treatment costs.”

NHS national clinical director for obesity and diabetes Professor Jonathan Valabhji said there around 115,000 younger people suffering type 2 diabetes or at risk of developing the condition, suggesting that it is not limited to those in middle and old age.

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