Research highlights link between diabetes and heart disease

by Barbara Hewitt on November 16, 2015

Almost 3.5 million people in the UK have diabetes, an increase of over 65% in the last decade, according to a new analysis of data from family doctors, with many of them at risk from heart disease.

In the past year alone there been a 3.5% rise in cases, while hundreds of thousands more people are undiagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, according to the analysis from the British Heart Foundation.

The BHF is highlighting the issue because of the strong link between diabetes and heart attacks. Diabetes can encourage the build-up of fatty deposits in the coronary arteries, the vessels which supply the heart with oxygen rich blood, which can lead to coronary heart disease. This increases a person’s risk of a deadly heart attack or stroke.

The charity has announced more than £3 million in funding for more research into the link between diabetes and heart disease which includes continued funding of pioneering research being carried out by Dr Richard Cubbon at the University of Leeds.

Cubbon is looking at new ways of treating the blood vessel damage associated with diabetes.

‘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,’ he explained.

This important research could help people like Feebee Cox, aged 43 from Warwick, who was diagnosed with type two diabetes in 2013. More recently her partner Lawrence was also diagnosed with type two diabetes and has had two heart attacks.

‘It’s scary to think how much more likely I am to have a heart attack because of diabetes. It really helps that Lawrence and I can support each other on this journey, but any new treatments that can be discovered to further reduce my risk of a heart problem would be hugely comforting,’ she said.

Prof Peter Weissberg, medical director of the BHF, said the research is showing 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. Treatments are urgently needed that can help prevent them suffering a deadly or disabling heart attack or stroke,’ he added.

Chris Askew, chief executive of charity Diabetes UK, said that the number of people with diabetes is rising at an alarming rate and every year there are more than 20,000 people who die tragically young 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,’ he added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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