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Heart attack warning for patients with diabetes

People with diabetes are almost 50% more likely to have a heart attack than people who do not suffer from the condition.

Between 2010 and 2011, almost 14,500 people with diabetes suffered from a heart attack in England and Wales, according to new data from the National Diabetes Audit.

The report, which shows the extent to which people with diabetes are dying earlier and developing more health problems than the rest of the population, states that only 9,800 heart-attack cases were expected.

It also suggests that people with diabetes are 65% more likely to have heart failure than the rest of the general population.

Patients are also at a greater risk of other conditions like angina, stroke and needing amputations, the report shows.

Between 2010 and 2011, 17,900 diabetics suffered from a stroke, 9,800 needed a kidney transplant or dialysis and 1,700 needed a “major amputation”, figures show.

Diabetics were also at a higher risk of death than people without the condition, the authors wrote.

The excess risk is higher among people with Type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes, which develops when the body cannot produce any insulin, is an autoimmune condition that accounts for 10% of all cases of diabetes.

The authors of the report said that the death rate among people with the condition is 135% higher than the general population.

People with Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90% of all cases and occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin for it to function properly, have a 36% excess risk, the authors add.

Diabetes UK said that the NHS should focus more on preventing diabetes-related heart disease.

The charity said that just 40% of sufferers are achieving the recommended cholesterol levels and one in 10 are not receiving an annual cholesterol check.

Many patients suffer high blood pressure and high blood glucose levels, a charity spokesman said.

Chief executive Barbara Young added: “The finding that people with diabetes are almost 50% more likely to have a heart attack is shocking and 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.

“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.”

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “These figures show that the biggest problem with diabetes is its devastating effect on the heart and circulation.

“It’s essential that, firstly, everyone with diabetes is identified and, secondly, they receive appropriate treatment and advice to help them avoid cardiovascular complications.

“Still more important is the need to prevent diabetes from occurring in the first place by tackling the increasing levels of obesity in our society, particularly in our children.”

Dr Bob Young, lead clinician of the audit and clinical lead for the National Diabetes Information Service, said: “These results highlight the huge impact of diabetes on disability and premature death. Much can be done to reduce these risks if all healthcare sectors work together with people who have diabetes.

“Some districts have appreciably lower diabetes related complications than others. Improving treatment for diabetes should be a top priority for all clinical services.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt added: “People with diabetes should be able to expect excellent care from the NHS and they will get it more consistently in future.

“I know there has been progress, but there is still unacceptable variation and we are determined to put that right.

“Through Public Health England, local authorities will be given a ring-fenced budget to tackle problems like obesity, which can then prevent Type 2 diabetes in the first place.

“We want to make sure that people living with diabetes are given the care and support they need, and this audit will help us do this.”

In the UK, there are 3.7 million people with diabetes, including an estimated 850,000 people who have Type 2 diabetes but do not know it.

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