Diabetes has been linked to almost one in eight adult deaths in the West Midlands, according to new research.
Figures published by the charity Diabetes UK show that 12.22 per cent of deaths among 20 to 79-year-olds in the region are linked to the disease, with sufferers twice as likely to die than those without the condition.
The data also discovered women with diabetes had a greater increased risk of death than men.
Peter Shorrick, Diabetes UK’s West Midlands regional manager, described the statistics as “alarming” and said the disease was one of the “biggest health challenges facing the UK”.
“There are already 225,000 people diagnosed with diabetes in the West Midlands and around 50,000 people who have the condition but are not aware of it,” he said.
“Good self-management, awareness, and improved access to specialist diabetes care services are crucial if we are to curb this growing health crisis and see a reduction in the number of people dying from diabetes and complications attributed to the condition.”
The figures were calculated by combining research evidence, diabetes prevalence estimates and population and mortality data.
The research found that primary care trusts with the highest percentage of diabetes-attributable deaths were in areas with a higher-than-average number of under-40s, and where there were large numbers of over-40s of Asian and black origin. These categories, it said, were at a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and also had high levels of deprivation.
In the region, the percentage of diabetes-attributable deaths for 20 to 79-year-olds varied at PCT level from 10.72 per cent – 267 deaths – in Worcestershire to 14.56 per cent – 284 deaths – in Birmingham East and North.
Other Midland figures included 10.73 per cent (262 deaths) in Warwickshire; 10.75 per cent (305) in South Staffordshire; 10.86 per cent (146) in Shropshire; 12.62 per cent (166) in Walsall and 14.05 per cent (183) in Wolverhampton.
Diabetes accounts for more than one in 10 deaths among the bulk of the population in England, according to the study. In most cases it kills indirectly by leading to strokes, heart attacks or kidney failure. Often it is not recorded on death certificates. For this reason the number of deaths attributable to diabetes has consistently been underestimated, say experts.
The figures compiled by Diabetes UK indicate the disease is responsible for 11.6 per cent of deaths among 20 to 79-year-olds in England.
It estimated there are currently 2.3 million people nationwide diagnosed with diabetes and more than half a million people unaware they have the condition.
A spokesman for the charity said diabetes could be fatal in a number of ways.
About 80 per cent of people with the condition die of cardio-vascular disease where high blood glucose levels can cause damage to blood vessels. This can result in a stroke or heart attack. It is also the main cause of end stage renal failure, an irreversible decline in kidney function.
Diabetes-sufferers are also at risk of a hypoglycaemic attack or a “hypo”, if their condition is not managed properly. This is a condition where the level of glucose in the blood drops and it can also lead to death on rare occasions. Similarly, high blood glucose levels, or hyperglycaemia, when left untreated can result in death.
John Ingham, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in his 50s during the late 1980s, died in July 2006 after suffering a major stroke.
His son Nigel, from Shrewsbury, said: “Despite warnings from his GP about the risk to his health and his sight, he did little to manage his diet which made the effects of his diabetes worse.
“My father soon began to age very quickly due to his diabetes in his 70s. He became incontinent and his eyesight deteriorated to such an extent that he could barely read, even with spectacles. Things then came to a head when an ulcer on his foot became infected and refused to heal. He was advised to have the foot amputated to save his life. It was very difficult persuading my father that he had the choice between dying or an amputation.
“My father would have had far fewer problems and would have undoubtedly lived longer with better management of his diabetes. Whilst not wanting to scare people unnecessarily, it is vital people realise the serious implications of not managing this condition properly.”