Opinion Former Article

Diabetes UK: Diabetes rates in the UK soar to nearly 3m

Diabetes UK warns: it’s not simply about being overweight

The number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has increased by nearly 130,000 to 2.9 million1 in the past year, warns leading health charity Diabetes UK today. This is nearly a 50 per cent rise since GPs first published diabetes data in 2005 (2m).

The rise is mainly in cases of Type 2 diabetes which accounts for around 90 per cent of all diagnoses. Whilst Type 2 diabetes commonly develops in people who are overweight, Diabetes UK is urging people to be aware of the other risk factors associated with the condition which include having a large waist, being aged over 40, having a family history of the condition, or being from Black, Asian or minority ethnic communities.

Barbara Young, Diabetes UK Chief Executive, said: “The rate of increase of diabetes is growing with huge human cost and cost to the NHS. The time for action is now. Whilst rates of other serious conditions including many cancers, heart disease and stroke are steady or declining, the epidemic of diabetes continues to grow at even faster rates.

“Simple things can make a huge impact. The vascular screening NHS Health Checks is critical in detecting early signs of Type 2 diabetes. Losing 10 per cent of your weight reduces your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes by 50 per cent. Check your risk level online at www.diabetes.org.uk/riskscore

“We must reverse this trend if more people are not going to suffer unnecessarily and if diabetes is not going to bankrupt the NHS. Around 10 per cent of NHS spending goes on diabetes and its complications; this equates to £9 billion per year or £1 million an hour.”

Diabetes UK is encouraging people to go online and take its new Diabetes Risk Score test (www.diabetes.org.uk/riskscore) to find out about their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. People at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes can often decrease or even reverse their risk by losing weight, increasing their physical activity levels and improving their diet.

The main risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes are being overweight or having a large waist, being aged over 40 (or over 25 in Black and South Asian people) and having a close relative with diabetes. At risk waist measurements are 37 inches or more for men, except those of South Asian origin who are at risk at 35 inches or more, and 31.5 inches or more for all women.

The symptoms of diabetes are going to the toilet (urinating) all the time especially at night, increased thirst, extreme tiredness, unexplained weight loss, genital itching or regular episodes of thrush, slow healing of cuts and wounds, and blurred vision. In Type 2 diabetes the signs and symptoms may not be obvious and the condition can go undetected for up to ten years meaning around half of people already show signs of complications by the time they are diagnosed. Symptoms are quickly relieved once diabetes is being treated and under control.

- ENDS –

For further media information or to speak to a case study, please contact Huw Beale on 020 7424 1152 or the Diabetes UK Media Relations team on 020 7424 1165 or email pressteam@diabetes.org.uk. For urgent out of hours media enquiries, please call 07711 176 028. ISDN facilities available.

Notes to editor:
1 (All data recorded April 2010 to March 2011)

England - 2010-11 Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) for England by The NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care - (www.ic.nhs.uk)

Northern Ireland - The Department of Health, Social Services Public Safety - (www.dhsspsni.gov.uk)

2 Scotland - The Scotland QOF figure is lower than last year, this is because the data collected was incomplete and therefore the real figure would be expected to be higher. See the Scotland ISD for further details.When comparing QOF data we have to use the QOF figures to compare like with like. However, when looking for Scotland prevalence on its own we would suggest using the data from the Scottish Diabetes Survey which will be closer to the true figure. The Information Services Division - (www.isdscotland.org)

Wales – Welsh Assembly Government, Stats Wales - (www.wales.gov.uk)

3 Type 2 diabetes develops when the body can still make some insulin, but not enough, or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly. Insulin acts as a key unlocking the cells, so if there is not enough insulin, or it is not working properly, the cells are only partially unlocked (or not at all) and glucose builds up in the blood. Type 2 diabetes usually affects people over 40 (over 25 in people from South Asian and Black backgrounds) and can be treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity but medication and/or insulin is often required. In around 80 per cent of cases the condition is linked with being overweight and can go undetected for up to ten years.

4 Type 1 diabetes develops when insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed. This type of diabetes usually appears before the age of 40 and accounts for around 10 per cent of all people with diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a serious life-long condition which cannot be prevented, is not known why it develops and is not connected with being overweight. People with Type 1 diabetes have to take insulin either via a pump or by injections several times a day to stay alive. The Diabetes UK Careline (0845 120 2960) offers information and support on any aspect of managing diabetes. The line is a low cost number and opens Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm (and operates a translation service). Recorded information on a number of diabetes-related topics is also available on this number 24 hours a day.

5 Supporting our work as a ‘Diabetes UK Supporting Member’ entitles you to a range of benefits including our bi-monthly magazine Balance, reliable information booklets on diabetes, our confidential Diabetes UK Careline, over 400 local Diabetes UK support groups, and access to an exclusive personalised ‘Supporting Members Area’ on our website.

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