New reports highlight incidence and impact of diabetes

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The 1.5 million Australians living with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to suffer a sudden cardiac death, compared to those without the condition, according to a new report from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

The report, The Dark Heart of Type 2 Diabetes, was developed with an unrestricted educational grant from Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly.

According to the report, developing type 2 diabetes early in life is one of the greatest contributors to an early death, with cardiovascular disease the number one killer.

An estimated two-thirds of Australians living with type 2 diabetes also have cardiovascular disease.

It found life expectancy for Australians with type 2 diabetes is almost a decade shorter than the national average - 8.2 years for men and 9.1 years for women - with cardiovascular disease responsible for one-in-three deaths.

It also found diabetes is the fourth most common condition managed in general practice and the lifetime risk of developing type 2 diabetes is one-in-three.

The economic impact in Australia is also significant with the annual cost of diabetes in term of medical care and government subsidies exceeding $10 billion.

Report co-author and Head of Clinical Diabetes and Population Health at the Baker Institute, Professor Jonathan Shaw, said great strides have been made in controlling blood glucose levels and thereby reducing the associated risk of kidney disease, loss of sight and limb complications, but “cardiovascular disease remains a clear and present threat for people with type 2 diabetes.”

“The reality is that Australians with type 2 diabetes are much more likely to die from heart disease, and at a younger age, than those without the condition — regardless of whether their blood sugar levels are elevated or under control,” said Professor Shaw.

“Perhaps the greatest concern is the risk of sudden cardiac death which happens without warning, even among people with no history of heart disease. The importance of regular check-ups cannot be understated,” he said.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has also released a new report on the incidence of insulin-treated diabetes in Australia.

According to the report, almost 28,000 people started using insulin to treat their diabetes in 2016.

Of these, almost 60 per cent (16,371) began using insulin to treat type 2 diabetes, while 9 per cent (2,625) were using insulin to treat type 1 diabetes. Almost 30 per cent (8,049) were women using insulin to treat gestational diabetes.

The report finds the incidence rate of type 1 diabetes was higher among males than females (13 per 100,000 males compared with 10 per 100,000 females) while three-in-five people diagnosed were under the age of 25. The age of peak diagnosis was 10-14 (33 cases per 100,000 population).

When it came to insulin-treated type 2 diabetes, the incidence rate was 1.5 times higher in males than females (74 per 100,000 males compared with 49 per 100,000 females), with over 90 per cent of new cases diagnosed in those aged over 40.