UK adults at risk of type 2 diabetes in denial about the condition, new study finds

by Barbara Hewitt on July 23, 2014

One in three adults in the UK are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but two thirds of those are not worried about their health, according to a new study.

According to the Simply Health Advisory Research Panel, millions of people across the country are playing a dangerous game of diabetes denial.

UKmap

1 in 3 UK adults are at risk of developing diabetes

A third of those polled by the Panel were either heavily overweight or obese and therefore deemed to be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

However, most of the ‘at risk’ respondents claimed not to be concerned about the possibility of becoming diabetic, with 60% saying they don’t believe their higher risk is something to worry about it.

Estimates show that every year, diabetes is responsible for 24,000 premature deaths in England and Wales, yet many of those at risk of developing the condition are in denial. Even when they have one or more of the recognisable symptoms, they do not take these seriously and fail to mention them to their doctor.

The study says that people’s inaction puts their long term health in jeopardy. Left untreated, diabetes can dramatically increase the chance of developing heart disease, suffering a stroke or going blind. It is also the primary trigger for lower limb amputation.

“If you have pre-diabetes, it’s silent, there are no symptoms; a shocking number of people are in this position and are ‘sleepwalking’ towards serious health problems. It is particularly important to be aware of your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, especially if you’re overweight or you have a family history of diabetes,” said Dr. Ralph Abraham, diabetes advisor to SHARP.

The research also found that 40% admit they know very little about the condition and 49% were already displaying one or more of the symptoms, while one in three had a waist measurement that put them at increased risk.

“This level of denial could be deadly. If you ignore diabetes it doesn’t go away. It damages blood vessels, destroys sight and undermines almost every aspect of your health until one day there is a crisis and it becomes impossible to ignore,” said Dr. Gill Jenkins from SHARP.

She pointed out that over time, diabetes increases the risk of atherosclerosis, the narrowing of blood vessels that reduces blood flow to the heart. This means that people with diabetes are five times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

One in four hospital admissions for heart failure are due to diabetes, but 36% of people surveyed had no knowledge of the link between the condition and heart disease. Diabetes also damages nerves, which is why people with the condition are more likely to suffer from foot ulcers and are at higher risk of amputation. Every week in the UK there are more than 100 lower limb amputations due to the condition, but 40% of those in the survey were unaware that people with diabetes are 20 times more likely to lose a limb than those who do not have it.

“Every day, lives and limbs are being lost to diabetes, but what is heartbreaking is that in so many cases these personal tragedies can be prevented,” explained Dr. Abraham.

While almost half of those surveyed, 49%, had one or more symptoms of the condition such as excessive thirst, frequent urination, tiredness, and dry mouth, some 38% of them wrongly believed these early warning signs were not serious and in many cases had failed to mention them to their doctor.

“These statistics show that far too many people are heading for problems by refusing to face the facts. When it comes to diabetes, ignorance is not bliss. It is potentially deadly,” Dr. Jenkins explained.

‘Diabetes can be a dreadful disorder, but it doesn’t have to be. When patients take control of their condition it can make an enormous difference. Something as simple as a regular appointment with a podiatrist could prevent an amputation and eye examinations can spot the early signs of vascular damage and perhaps head off a heart attack or blindness,’ she added.

 


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com 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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