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Thursday, 23 August 2018

Surge in heart attacks and strokes predicted as diabetes epidemic takes its toll

Written by Ella Pickover

Heart attacks and strokes are set to soar over the coming years as the diabetes epidemic sweeping the nation takes its toll, a charity has warned.

The growing number of people with diabetes could trigger a 29% rise in the number of heart attacks and strokes linked to the condition by 2035, the British Heart Foundation has predicted.

It warned that the rising tide of diabetes will have a significant impact on people suffering ill health related to the condition.

The charity has estimated that 39,000 people living with diabetes will suffer a heart attack in 2035, a rise of 9,000 compared with 2015.

Meanwhile, more than 50,000 people will have a stroke, a rise of 11,000, the charity said.

Cases of angina and heart failure are also set to soar, it warned.

The BHF said that over the next two decades the number of people with diabetes in England is set to increase from four million to five million - partly due to the swelling cases of obesity, which is leading to increasing cases of type 2 diabetes.

It said that patients with type 2 diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, which means a rise in diabetes cases is expected to trigger a sharp increase in these potentially deadly heart and circulatory conditions.

The charity has called for more research to better understand the links between heart and circulatory problems.

It also called for "bold action" to tackle obesity and inactivity.

"Thanks to research we've made excellent progress in improving survival rates for heart attacks and strokes," said BHF chief executive Simon Gillespie.

"However, today's figures point to an extremely worrying trend.

"People with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases and the expected surge in type 2 diabetes cases by 2035 could put thousands more people at risk of a deadly heart attack or stroke.

"We can only reverse this trend by taking bold action to tackle obesity and inactivity, especially amongst young people.

"This must include consideration of further regulatory action to reduce sugar and fat content in food, and to curb junk food advertising directed at young children.

"The food industry is not acting quickly enough to re-formulate its products, despite mounting evidence of their impact on the nation's health.

"We also need continued research that will enable us to better understand how diabetes leads to these deadly heart and circulatory conditions, and how we can stop it."

One diabetes patient, Sarah Miles, had to give up her nursing career after suffering a heart attack at the age of 38.

The 43-year-old from Cheddar, Somerset, said: "Living with diabetes is difficult, but to then have a heart attack was a total shock. The attack led to heart failure which has severely limited my quality of life."

She added: "I've had to give up my nursing career, my social life and my family dynamic has totally changed forever.

"To think that these conditions are on the rise is extremely worrying, and people need to be aware of how they can prevent them in the first place.

"I was also surprised by how little my doctors knew about the connection between my diabetes and heart problems, which shows the real need for research into new treatments."

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy medical director at Public Health England (PHE), said: "Everyone can make important lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These include losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising regularly and cutting back on alcohol.

"I encourage having a free NHS Health Check, offered to 40-74 year olds, to help spot early warning signs of these preventable conditions and gives help and advice on lowering the risks."

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A former nurse with diabetes has described how she suffered a heart attack when she was just 38 years old.

Sarah Miles (pictured) said her heart attack, and subsequent cardiac arrest, has meant she was forced to give up her nursing career.

The mother-of-two from Cheddar, Somerset, said she had noticed signs of heart problems in the months leading up to her heart attack but was repeatedly told she was "too young" to have anything wrong with her heart.

Ms Miles now suffers heart failure and is being considered for a heart transplant.

She said that suffering a heart attack was a "shock" and she has suffered significant problems since.

The 43-year-old is calling on people with diabetes to be more aware about the connection between diabetes and heart problems and to make lifestyle changes if they can.

"(Having a heart attack) was quite a shock in more ways than one because I went into cardiac arrest as well so I had to have a defibrillator used on me," she told the Press Association.

Said she was lucky to be alive, adding: "Within 10 minutes of the paramedics arriving I was in cardiac arrest.

"I was luckily in the back of an ambulance as it happened.

"Less than one in 10 people survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest."

Ms Miles was diagnosed with type two diabetes in April 2013 and just nine months later she suffered her heart attack and cardiac arrest.

"I'd been going to the doctors quite a bit because I'd been getting symptoms of heart problems," she said.

"Not chest pain, but pains in my jaw, breathlessness, things like that and I kept being told that I was just obsessed and depressed, I was too young to have anything wrong with my heart, despite the fact I do have a strong family history."

She said: "No one (health workers) mentioned a connection (between diabetes and heart problems) until after I'd had a heart attack.

"I asked 'why has this happened to me?' and they said 'well it could be because of the diabetes but we don't really know'.

"They didn't even take into account my family history and they basically kept telling me I was too young."

Now Ms Miles suffers from heart failure.

"I have about 20% function left in my heart and I am being considered for transplant," she added.

"There is no cure for heart failure, I am on an awful lot of medication every day but there is no cure.

"They can't fix a broken heart, unfortunately, so the only cure would be a transplant."

The British Heart Foundation said that patients with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

It has warned that as numbers of diabetes cases are increasing, the number of people who suffer from these potentially deadly heart and circulatory problems is also likely to rise.

Ms Miles said that people with diabetes need to be aware of a link.

"Prevention is always better than cure, especially when there is no cure," she said.

"So if there are things that people can change, whether it be even the smallest changes to lifestyle, then people really need to consider it because once your heart is damaged it really can't be fixed."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.