Published on 21 December 2017

Type 2 diabetes can be as big a risk to heart health as having previously had a heart attack.

Better education about additional health risks of having type 2 diabetes has been called for after a survey found people with the condition were not aware of being at a higher risk of developing heart disease.

The results of the recently published survey, found that nearly half (41%) of people with type 2 diabetes in the UK did not fully understand their risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

People with type 2 diabetes are significantly more likely to develop the cardiovascular disease than those without the condition.

In addition, the online survey, conducted by Novo Nordisk, found that 60% of doctors reported that they only discuss their patients’ risk of cardiovascular disease when they are prompted to do so by test results, while just one in ten people with type 2 diabetes made a point of asking their doctor about their cardiovascular risk.

Professor Steve Bain, Assistant Medical Director for Research and Development for Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board and Clinical Lead for the Diabetes Research Network, Wales, said: “If you have type 2 diabetes, your risk of dying due to cardiovascular disease is similar to someone who has already had a heart attack.

“This survey uncovers that, worryingly, conversations about the link between type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risk between UK patients and healthcare professionals are either being avoided altogether or lack clarity, with many people uncertain about how to reduce their risk. It is therefore critical that effective discussions around managing and reducing risk for patients with type 2 diabetes happen as early as possible.”

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disability among people with type 2 diabetes.

People without type 2 diabetes, can be 2–6 times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, including heart attack or stroke, than people without the condition.

In addition, for every 10 years a person has type 2 diabetes, there is an 86% increase in their risk of death related to coronary heart disease, highlighting the need to identify risk factors early.

The findings of the survey highlighted the danger of younger people with type 2 diabetes underestimating their risk of developing cardiovascular disease, which could lead to potentially dangerous delays in treatment.

The survey also highlighted a perception, particularly among people aged 18-34, that cardiovascular disease is either genetic or only happens to people who are overweight, which was seen as a potential barrier to effective discussions on cardiovascular risk among people with type 2 diabetes and healthcare professionals.

The report added that 72% of GPs and nurses believed their patients are not taking enough responsibility for managing their own risk of developing heart disease. This was backed up, with around a third (35%) of people with type 2 diabetes saying that they relied on instructions from their doctor on lowering their cardiovascular risk.

Dr Avideh Nazeri, Director of Clinical, Medical and Regulatory for Novo Nordisk UK, said: “It is crucial for people to understand the link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease and to then ask for timely, professional help. These survey results underline the importance of all ongoing efforts within the NHS to support healthcare professionals; to prioritise proactive and effective conversations, and to have digestible educational resources, facilitating better outcomes at the point of care.”

Find out more about type 2 diabetes
Read the DRWF leaflets A healthy diet and diabetes and Exercise and diabetes here

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