Welsh people in the dark about heart disease, stroke and dementia link with diabetes

Many people in Wales are in the dark about the links between diabetes to coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of heart attacks, according to a survey commissioned by the British Heart Foundation (BHF). The survey found that just 37% of adults in Wales were aware of the link [1].

Around 195,000 adults have been diagnosed with diabetes in Wales.  BHF Cymru say the findings point to a continuing lack of awareness of the devastating consequences of poorly controlled diabetes on the heart and circulatory system.

With diabetes contributing to 680 strokes and 530 heart attacks in the UK every week [2], the leading research charity hopes to improve public understanding of the links between the different conditions. People who have diabetes are twice as likely to suffer a stroke and nearly 2.5 times as likely to suffer a heart attack [3]. They are also 2-3 times more likely to develop vascular dementia [4].

Diabetes can progress for years, damaging the heart and blood vessels, without noticeable symptoms. The BHF says a lack of knowledge of the silent effects of diabetes could also be holding people back from properly managing their condition. Just two in five people with Type 2 diabetes are meeting the recommended treatment targets that will reduce their risk of complications [5].

Understanding of the links between diabetes, heart attack and stroke is even worse amongst the general population. Only 37 per cent of all adults surveyed in Wales knew that diabetes increases a person’s risk of developing coronary heart disease, and a third (32 per cent) were aware that diabetes increases the risk of stroke [1].

Around 4.7 million people are estimated to have diabetes in the UK. However, it’s estimated that nearly a million (920,000) people are living with the condition undiagnosed [6].

Health complications from diabetes include heart disease, stroke, vascular dementia, peripheral arterial disease and blindness.

Adam Fletcher, Head of BHF Cymru said:

“There’s no doubt that people vastly underestimate the danger of diabetes, and this could be costing lives. The condition significantly increases the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke, and research has shown that it can also contribute to the development of dementia.

“Better public awareness of the risks will encourage people to get tested, take their treatments, and could ultimately save lives.

“Just as public understanding needs to improve, there is also much work to be done to advance research in this area. We are currently funding vital research towards finding ways to prevent people with diabetes from developing heart and circulatory diseases.”

The BHF funds £400 million of research into heart and circulatory diseases. Find out why the BHF’s research starts with your heart but doesn’t stop there: www.bhf.org.uk/startswithyourheart

If you would like to order a free glow in the dark poster of the circulatory system, please click here: www.bhf.org.uk/glowposter