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Number of people with diabetes tops four million for first time

Published 05/01/2016

Type 2 diabetes is linked to unhealthy lifestyles, including obesity
Type 2 diabetes is linked to unhealthy lifestyles, including obesity

The number of people with diabetes in the UK has topped four million for the first time, according to new figures.

GP practice data, analysed by the charity Diabetes UK, shows there are now 4.05 million people living with the condition.

This includes 3.5 million adults who have been officially diagnosed - up 119,965 on the figure for the previous year and an increase of 65% over the past decade.

Some 549,000 people are also believed to have Type 2 diabetes but are currently undiagnosed. Type 2 diabetes is linked to unhealthy lifestyles, including obesity.

If current trends continue, an estimated five million people will have diabetes by 2025.

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: "With four million people in the UK now living with diabetes, the need to tackle this serious health condition has never been so stark or so urgent."

He said there was a need for a "concerted effort led by the Government to take active steps to address the fact that almost two in every three people in the UK are overweight or obese and are therefore at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

"Basic measures such as making healthy food cheaper and more accessible, introducing clearer food labelling and making it easier for people to build physical activity into their daily lives would have a profound influence."

According to Diabetes UK, more than 24,000 people with diabetes die prematurely every year due to failures in accessing the best type of care.

This includes receiving eight annual checks in areas such as foot care and eyesight.

The checks - which only 60% of people with diabetes currently receive - are designed to prevent complications which can lead to limb amputation, blindness, kidney failure and even death.

The charity also warned that people are missing out on education courses designed to help them best manage their condition, with more than a third of regions in England still not running them.

Furthermore, hospital care for people with diabetes is consistently poor and puts some lives at risk, it said.

Some 80% of the £10 billion spent on diabetes every year by the NHS goes on treating complications that may have been preventable.

Mr Askew said: "Tragically, we are continuing to see too many people with diabetes suffering serious complications, and even dying before their time, and we know that key reasons for this are that they are being denied both the care and access to education that would help them to manage their condition well.

"It is vital that we start to see people with diabetes receive good quality care wherever they live rather than them being at the mercy of a postcode lottery."

He added: "With a record number of people living with diabetes, there is no time to waste in getting serious about providing better care and diabetes education.

"Until this happens, the rising number of people with diabetes will continue to be denied the best chance of living long and healthy lives and the NHS will continue to be crippled under avoidable but escalating costs of treating poorly-managed diabetes."

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: "Sadly, too many people suffer from Type 2 diabetes and its serious health consequences.

"We must help prevent those at high risk of developing it from doing so.

"The NHS diabetes prevention programme, due to begin national rollout in the spring, will help people make the lifestyle changes that lessen their risk - eating more healthily, being more physically active and achieving a healthy weight and waist size."

The new figures come as a poll of more than 2,000 adults for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) found 41% are unaware that being overweight increases the risk of developing cancer.

Some 54% were also not aware that physical inactivity can increase the risk of cancer and 40% were unaware of the link with a poor diet or drinking alcohol (43%).

Amanda McLean, WCRF UK director, said: "It is worrying that so many people are still not aware that being overweight can increase their chances of developing cancer.

"In fact our research has shown that about 24,000 cancer cases in the UK could be avoided if everyone was a healthy weight."

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