New research has revealed that over three million older people are currently living with diabetes in the UK, which has increased by over 65 per cent since 2005.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has revealed that the rise in diabetes cases amongst older people is set to increase further, while many individuals are unaware they are living with Type 2 diabetes, a condition linked to obesity and unhealthy lifestyles.
According to the NHS, diabetes can almost double a person’s risk of a having a heart attack. Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the BHF, said: “Diabetes is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
"Up to four million adults in the UK have diabetes so treatments are urgently needed that can help prevent them suffering a deadly or disabling heart attack or stroke.
“Research we’re funding is showing us how diabetes can affect the blood vessels and bring on disease. By understanding this process, we hope to develop medicines that can prevent this disease process or even reverse it.”
Diabetes is a condition which involves high levels of sugar in the blood due to the insulin hormone. It can encourage the build-up of fatty deposits in the coronary arteries and the vessels which supply the heart with oxygen-rich blood. This can lead to coronary heart disease and increase a person’s risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
To help reduce the number of people at risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, BHF has announced that more than £3 million will be spent on finding new treatments for the condition.
The charity hopes the research will look at how blood vessels function, which will lead to new therapies to reduce the chance of diabetics passing away early from heart disease.
Dr Richard Cubbon from the University of Leeds, hopes to find a new way to treat the blood vessel damage associated with diabetes. He said: “We are currently unable to reverse blood vessel damage caused by diabetes. We’re studying a protein which could be involved in blood vessel repair, which could lead to new drugs that help prevent the deadly heart attacks and strokes associated with diabetes.”
Experts have previously advised that living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight reduces the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Chief executive of Diabetes UK, Chris Askew, added: “The number of people with diabetes is rising at an alarming rate and every year there are more than 20,000 people who pass away as a result of the condition.
“Given the scale and the seriousness of the condition, it is vital that there is more research into better treatment and, ultimately, into finding a cure. Diabetes remains one of the biggest health challenges of our time. We must protect the health of the nation by taking urgent steps to get to grips with it or we will continue to see more and more people dying before their time.”
By 2040, 640 million are expected to be living with diabetes globally.