Diabetes rates in the UK have soared to nearly three million, a leading charity has said.
The number of people diagnosed with the disease has risen by nearly 130,000 to 2.9 million in the past year, said Diabetes UK.
There are now 50% more Britons with diabetes than when GP data on the disease were first published in 2005. The rise is mainly due to a surge in Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90% of all cases and is most common in people who are overweight.
Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, 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% of your weight reduces your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes by 50%.”
“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% of NHS spending goes on diabetes and its complications; this equates to £9 billion per year or £1 million an hour.”
Diabetes UK is trying to make people aware of the lesser-known risk factors associated with the condition. These include having a large waist, irrespective of weight, being aged over 40, having relatives with the disease, or being from a black, Asian, or other minority ethnic community.
At-risk waist measurements are 37 inches or more for men, except those of South Asian origin for whom the threshold is 35 inches or more, and 31.5 inches or more for women.
People with Type 2 diabetes may have the condition for up to 10 years without realising it. Around half of sufferers already show signs of complications by the time they are diagnosed. Ms Young said people could check their risk levels online at www.diabetes.org.uk/riskscore.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease not linked to lifestyle or weight which results in the destruction of insulin-producing cells. It affects about 10% of sufferers.
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