Healthy living

Up to 24,000 diabetes deaths a year could be avoided

Up to 24,000 diabetes deaths a year could be avoided Young people at high risk

Up to 24,000 deaths from diabetes each year in England could be avoided if the condition was better managed by doctors and patients, according to a new report.

The first ever report into death rates from the National Diabetes Audit for England also found that women with diabetes are up to nine times more likely to die at a younger age than those without the condition.

People with diabetes have higher than normal blood sugar levels. This occurs if the body does not make enough of the hormone insulin, or the cells in the body are not able to respond to the insulin that is produced, known as insulin resistance.

Complications of diabetes include stroke, heart and kidney failure, blindness, heart and limb amputation.

Each year, around 75,000 people in England die from diabetes, accounting for about 15 per cent of total deaths.

But the new report by the NHS Information Centre estimates that about a third of the deaths could be avoided if the condition was better managed.

This includes patients receiving basic healthcare checks, taking medication as advised and leading healthier lifestyles.

The report compared data on 2.5 million people who had diabetes between 2003/04 and 2009/10 with death records from the Office of National Statistics.

Around three quarters of the 24,000 people with diabetes who die unnecessarily from diabetes are aged 65 and over, the report stated.

But the gap in death rates between those with and without diabetes becomes more extreme in the younger age groups.

About one in 3,300 women in England will die between the ages of 15 to 34; but this risk increases nine-fold among women with type 1 diabetes to one in 360.

People with type 1 diabetes are unable to make insulin because the insulin-producing cells (beta-cells) in the pancreas have been destroyed by the body's immune system.

Among women with type 2 diabetes the risk of dying at a younger age than their peers increases six-fold to one in 520.

Type 2 diabetes is linked to being overweight and leading a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle.

A similar picture is also true for young men aged 15 to 34 who have diabetes. The risk of dying from the condition rises four fold for men with type 1 diabetes to one in 360, and by just under four-fold among those with type 2 diabetes, to one in 430.

This means two young people aged 15 to 34 may be dying each week from avoidable causes, the report stated.

Earlier this year, the National Diabetes Audit found nearly 450,000 children and younger adults (aged 0 to 54) with diabetes have high risk blood sugar levels that could lead to severe complications.

Dr Bob Young, consultant diabetologist and clinical lead for the National Diabetes Information Service, said: "For the first time we have a reliable measure of the huge impact of diabetes on early death. Many of these early deaths could be prevented.

The rate of new diabetes is increasing every year. So, if there are no changes, the impact of diabetes on national mortality will increase.

"Doctors, nurses and the NHS working in partnership with people who have diabetes should be able to improve these grim statistics."

Around 2.8 million people in the UK have diabetes, with around 2.6 million with type 2. More than 800,000 people are estimated to have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: "These figures are incredibly alarming as there is no reason why people with diabetes cannot live long and healthy lives if they receive the right care and support to help them manage their conditions.

"Self-management is very important, but it is also vital that people with diabetes receive the care they need to help them manage their condition in the first place.

"We know that half of people with Type 2 diabetes and more than two thirds of people with Type 1 diabetes are not receiving the care they need to stay healthy, so it is imperative we take action now to stop even more lives being needlessly cut short."

This article was published on Wed 14 December 2011

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