Growing diabetes epidemic could trigger 'sharp rise' in heart attacks and strokes by 2035

23 August 2018        

Category: Research

According to our new analysis the number of people suffering heart attacks and strokes as a result of their diabetes could rise by 29% by 2035.

Taking a blood sample to test blood sugar

The forecast reveals that the growing number of people with diabetes could result in nearly 39,000 people living with diabetes suffering a heart attack in 2035 – a rise of 9,000 compared to 2015 – and over 50,000 people suffering a stroke – a rise of 11,000.

Today in England, nearly 4 million people are living with diabetes. But this is expected to rise to over 5 million over the next 20 years, partly due to people’s worsening lifestyles and the UK’s growing obesity rates.  

The vast majority of people with diabetes have type 2, with just 10% diagnosed with type 1 in the UK. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people without diabetes. This means if current trends continue the rise in diabetes cases could trigger a sharp increase in these deadly heart and circulatory problems. 

In addition to heart attack and stroke, the rise in diabetes cases could increase the number of people suffering from conditions including angina and heart failure.

This rise is likely to put an unprecedented burden on the NHS, with previous estimates suggesting the yearly cost of treating people with diabetes will be £16.9 billion by 2035, up from £9.8 billion in 2012.

We’re highlighting the urgent need for ‘bold action’ to tackle lifestyle factors, such as obesity and a poor diet, that are leading to spiralling rates of diabetes, as well as a greater focus within the health sector on earlier diagnosis. Improved management of diabetes for those already living with the condition can also lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke.  

Furthermore, research is urgently needed to improve our understanding of how diabetes and heart and circulatory diseases are connected, and to develop new treatments for people living with these multiple conditions. 

Speaking about the new analysis Simon Gillespie, our Chief Executive, said: “Thanks to research we’ve made excellent progress in improving survival rates for heart attacks and strokes. 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 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.”

Sarah Miles, 43, from Somerset, has been living with type 2 diabetes for 5 years and at age 38 she had a heart attack and cardiac arrest, and is now living with heart failure. She 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. 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.”

We fund research into a range of interconnected conditions including heart attacks, stroke, vascular dementia and diabetes.

Read more about our research into these conditions

Condition  2015 2035 (projected) Total increase
Diabetes and angina 112,172 144,908 32,736
Diabetes and heart failure 113,544 146,380 33,136
Diabetes and stroke 38,900 50,252 11,352
Diabetes and heart attack 30,143 38,939 8,797