If current trends persist, 64% of adults in Wales will be overweight or obese by the year 2030 and 11.5% will be living with diabetes. On World Diabetes Day, Diabetes UK Cymru is calling for ambitious, sustained action by Welsh Government to tackle this growing health crisis, which is fuelling the rise in type 2 diabetes in Wales.
Information from Public Health Wales shows that 600,000 adults in Wales, or one in four, are now obese. This number increases to one in three amongst 45-64 year olds.
Although it’s not the only factor, obesity is the most significant risk factor for new cases of type 2 diabetes, accounting for 80 to 85% of someone’s risk. It’s the main driver behind the leap in type 2 diabetes cases over the last 20 years.
Obesity is also contributing to the increase in gestational diabetes and the worrying rise in young people with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is serious because it can lead to devastating and life-limiting complications. People with the condition are two and half times more likely to have a heart attack, and four times more likely to experience kidney failure than those without it.
Wales already has the highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the UK, at 7.4%. The UK average is 6.8%. 194,000 people in Wales living with diabetes, 90 per cent of whom have Type 2 diabetes. There are a further 61,000 living with the condition who don’t know they have it because they haven’t yet been diagnosed − bringing the total number living with Type 2 diabetes in Wales to almost quarter of a million.
John Lewindon, 67, from Cardiff
John was diagnosed as at risk of type 2 diabetes in 2009 following a routine blood test. Six months later he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. For many years he did not attend his health checks and appointments, leading to him develop life-threatening complications.
John said, “Looking back, I can see I resented it. I was in denial. I was told to lose weight, which was never going to happen, and to visit the nurse, which I didn’t do either. I was given a blood testing meter but used it very rarely. My wife and children were very worried but I felt fine. I felt like nothing would happen to me.”
In October 2017 after suffering breathlessness for a few weeks, John was rushed into hospital.
John continued, “I had a pulmonary embolism across both lungs. The consultant told my wife that if I didn’t respond to treatment within two hours, I wouldn’t survive. It was a lightbulb moment. I thought, I’m not ready for this and neither are my family. I needed to face up and do something about it.”
John has since lost four stone and aims to lose another 40 kilos, with the hope of reducing his medication or stopping it altogether. He regularly volunteers for Diabetes UK Cymru, encouraging others living with diabetes to reach out for support.
“Speaking to other people with diabetes made me realise I am not alone. By working together you can find the emotional support to face up to diabetes and work with it, rather than ignore it. If I can prevent one other person from burying their head in the sand, I could potentially save that person’s life.”
More than half of all cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed, and in turn the risk of developing the related complications, by tackling overweight and obesity. The charity is therefore calling for sustained government and industry action on health and obesity.
Dai Williams, National Director, Diabetes UK Cymru, said: “Through our new UK strategy we’re restating our commitment to tackling the diabetes crisis on all fronts.
“We’re facing an urgent public health problem in Wales. Tackling this requires ambitious and sustained action from Welsh Government, the third-sector and the NHS in Wales. That’s because, right now, it’s hard to be healthy.
“Obesity currently costs the NHS in Wales £73 million a year. It also spends £500 million a year, ten per cent of its budget, on diabetes. Much of this is spent on treating complications, which could in many cases be prevented. We welcome ‘Healthy Weight, Healthy Wales’, the Welsh Government’s new plan to tackle obesity and make healthy choices easier for everyone. Now we need to see dedicated action, including more information about what’s in the food we buy, making food and drinks healthier, and addressing the marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods.
“Without this commitment, more people will develop Type 2 and gestational diabetes. But with more awareness, government action and the right investment and support, we can change this.”
Reducing the number of people getting type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes is one of five key outcomes in Diabetes UK’s new five-year strategy, which the charity is launching today to mark World Diabetes Day 2019 (14 November).
The ambitious strategy ‘A generation to end the harm’ will focus on achieving five key outcomes by 2025:
- More people with type 1, type 2 and all other forms of diabetes will benefit from new treatments that cure or prevent the condition.
- More people will be in remission from type 2 diabetes.
- More people will get the quality of care they need to manage their diabetes well.
- Fewer people will get type 2 and gestational diabetes.
- More people will live better and more confident lives with diabetes, free from discrimination.
Diabetes UK’s new strategy will be published on 14 November. Download here: www.diabetes.org.uk/strategy2025