New heart failure warning for diabetics

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Diabetics are 38 per cent more likely to die early and have a 73 per cent higher risk of being admitted to hospital for heart failure than others, a report warns today.

The review of more than two million people with diabetes found more than a quarter of those admitted with heart failure had diabetes.

Furthermore, diabetics needing hospital care for heart failure had more than quadruple the odds of dying in the following year compared with the general population.

The National Diabetes Audit, which covers England and Wales, found the risk of premature death among people with diabetes was much higher and there were 24,900 more deaths in 2012 than would normally be expected.

Among people with Type 1 diabetes, which usually develops in childhood, 3,300 died in 2012, whereas 1,440 would have been expected among the same number of the general population.

This gives a 129 per cent increased risk of death for people with Type 1 diabetes compared with the general population, the audit said.

Of those with Type 2, which is linked to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity, 70,900 died during 2012, whereas 52,800 would have been expected among the same number of the general population, giving a 34 per cent increased risk of death.

The clinical lead for the audit, Bob Young, said: “This audit is a wake-up call. Heart failure is preventable and treatable. Every health professional should take note of how much more common heart failure is among patients with diabetes and how high the short-term risk of death is.”

The chief executive of Diabetes UK, Barbara Young, added: “The finding that every fourth person admitted to hospital with heart failure has diabetes is a stark illustration of how we are facing an epidemic of diabetes-related complications.

“Given how much higher their risk is, it is vital that people with diabetes have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked at least once a year and that if they are high then they are supported in lowering them.

“But our biggest concern is that too often these checks are not then leading to lower levels of cholesterol and blood pressure and it is only by improving this situation that we will finally start to bring the diabetes-related heart disease epidemic under control.”

Separate research published today finds the risk of pregnant women with pre-existing diabetes suffering stillbirth is six times greater than the general population, while the risk of their baby dying before the age of one is almost double - with no evidence rates are improving.

Experts from Newcastle University, the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Public Health England estimated rates of infant death could be cut by 40 per cent with the right blood-glucose control before pregnancy.

They said there was also evidence folic acid supplements could help reduce the toll and urged diabetic women planning children to seek help as early as possible.

Ruth Bell, from Newcastle University, who led the research, said: “It’s disappointing to see so little improvement because, with the right care, most women with diabetes can – and will – have a healthy baby.

“Stillbirths and infant deaths are thankfully not common, but they could be even less common if all women with diabetes can be helped to achieve the best possible control of their blood glucose levels before becoming pregnant.”

The research, published in the journal Diabetologia, examined the outcomes of 400,000 pregnancies in the North East and Cumbria from 1996 to 2008.