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Wales has the highest prevalence of diabetes in the UK

New analysis released today by Diabetes UK Cymru shows that the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in Wales has increased from 194,693 to 198,883 since last year.

This is a prevalence of 7.6%, the highest in the UK. The UK average prevalence is 6.9%.

In addition, there could be as many as 61,501 more people living with type 2 diabetes, who don’t know they have it because they haven’t been diagnosed yet, bringing the total number to over 260,000 (adults)

Data from Public Health Wales suggests that more than 60% of adults in Wales are now overweight or obese.

While not every case of type 2 diabetes is associated with excessive weight, it is the single greatest risk factor responsible for 80 to 85% of someone’s risk for developing the condition. Age, family history, and ethnicity can also contribute to someone’s risk, with people of African-Caribbean, Black African, or South Asian descent two to four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than white people

People with type 2 diabetes are 50% more likely to die prematurely than those without diabetes. A common complication of diabetes which can lead to early death is heart disease. People with type 2 diabetes are two to two and a half times more likely to experience heart failure and twice more likely to have a heart attack compared to people without diabetes.

Dai Williams, National Director at Diabetes UK Cymru, said:  “Type 2 diabetes is the urgent public health crisis in Wales, and the only way to solve it is by decisive action and leadership from Welsh government. Wales is the only country in the UK without a diabetes prevention programme.

More than half of all of all cases of type 2 diabetes and the accompanying risk of developing devastating complications, could be prevented or delayed by supporting people to make healthier choices. This includes mandating industry to make food and drinks healthier and addressing the marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods. At the same time, we need to help people understand their personal risk of type 2 diabetes and provide specialist clinical support to reduce it.

Diabetes UK Cymru welcomes both the Welsh government’s obesity strategy “Healthy Weight, Healthy Wales”, published earlier this month and the allocated funding. These interventions are the first step in tracking the growing problem of obesity in Wales. We want to see sustained investment in services to support people maintain a healthy weight. However, we are calling on the Welsh government to deliver a comprehensive Diabetes Prevention Plan by working with third sector, healthcare professionals and people living with diabetes to reduce the number of people developing the condition in the future. Such approach is vital, if we as a nation are going to beat this public health crisis.”

In the UK overall, 3.9 million people are currently living with a diagnosis of diabetes, and 90 per cent of those with type 2. There are also almost a million more people who haven’t been diagnosed yet, bringing the total number up to more than 4.8 million.

The data shows a stark increase in the number of people living with a diabetes diagnosis in the UK of more than 100,000 from last year. At this rate the number of people with diabetes, including the undiagnosed population, is expected to rise to 5.3 million by 2025.