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Friday, April 30, 1999 Published at 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK


Action needed to prevent premature diabetes deaths

Young diabetics are at risk of heart disease

The care of young people with diabetes must be urgently reviewed to reduce the threat of heart disease in later life, the British Diabetic Association (BDA) has claimed.

The BDA survey has found that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among people with diabetes over the age of 30, and that, unlike the general population, women are at as great a risk as men.

Diabetics are four to five times more likely to be admitted to hospital due to heart disease than the general population.

Suzanne Lucas, BDA Director of Care, said research was needed to ascertain why:

  • Diabetic women lose their natural protection against heart disease
  • Diabetic men in the 30-39 age group are more at risk from acute complications than men in other age groups.

Ms Lucas said: "What is needed is a greater awareness among people with diabetes and health care professionals of the threat of cardiovascular disease and other complications.

"It is also essential that further work is carried out to prevent any unnecessary deaths."

The BDA survey is the largest ever carried out into young people with diabetes.

It also revealed that while the number of deaths among younger people with diabetes is small, there has not been the reduction in death rates that might have been expected during a period when care has been improving.

The leading cause of death in diabetics under 30 is acute metabolic complications such as ketoacidosis.

Deaths must come down

Dr Felix Burden, consultant physician at Leicester General Hospital, said: "While the study has been vital in revealing the causes of deaths, we now need to address the question of why they are happening and what we can do to prevent them.

"Quality of life has improved enormously over the period of the study, but we must also reduce the total number of deaths."

The BDA is caling for:

  • Diabetics to take more exercise, eat a balanced diet and stop smoking
  • Health professionals to ensure newly diagnosed diabetics are fully appraised of all the health risks
  • Health workers to ensure universal awareness of the symptoms of diabetes and the signs of development of ketoacdosis
  • The Department of Health to launch an inquiry into the precise reasons for the high death rate among diabetics under 30.

Symptoms of diabetes include thirst and a dry mouth, tiredness, blurred vision and passing large amounts of urine.

Ketoacidosis develops when there is a severe shortage of the hormone insulin in the body.

If left untreated a sufferer can fall into a "diabetic coma" which can be life-threatening.

With appropriate and rapid treatment many of the deaths that occur as a result of ketoacidosis could be avoided.

The BDA study was based on the medical records of 23,752 people who were diagnosed before the age of 30 with type one diabetes between 1972 and 1993.

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