850,000 Britons do not know they have diabetes and could be missing health checks that would spot life-threatening complications
00:25 GMT, 11 June 2012
Almost one in 70 people are living with undiagnosed diabetes and are running the risk of 'devastating' complications
Around one in 70 people in Britain suffer from type 2 diabetes but do not realise it, a charity has warned.
Diabetes UK says 850,000 adults with diabetes have not been diagnosed and are missing out on health checks that could stop life-threatening complications.
This equates to one passenger on a full double-decker bus or more than 1,000 supporters at a packed Wembley Stadium.
The figures, released today to mark the start of Diabetes Week, suggest most people will have a friend or family member who has the condition but does not know it.
The soaring rate of type 2 diabetes – the kind that mostly affects middle-aged people – is being fuelled by obesity, say experts. It is also strongly linked to related factors such as leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating an unhealthy diet.
Nine out of ten people with diabetes have type 2. It occurs when the body gradually loses the ability to process blood sugar, leading to high levels that can damage the body’s organs.
Diabetes UK is urging people to find out if they are at high risk, because the longer the condition is left untreated, the greater the danger of devastating complications such as blindness, kidney failure, strokes and amputation.
Previous research suggests it can go undiagnosed for up to ten years and that 50 per cent already have signs of complications by the time they are diagnosed.
Diabetes type 2 is most commonly caused by obesity but can also be an effect of leading an inactive lifestyle and eating an unhealthy diet
Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said 'When you consider the potentially devastating health consequences of Type 2 diabetes, it is shocking that so many people have the condition and do not know it.
'These figures show that every time we walk down our local high street, we are likely to be walking past people who have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes.
'This is a real concern because it is only by getting the condition diagnosed early that people can start getting the treatment they need to prevent serious health complications, including blindness, amputation, kidney failure and stroke.
'Getting these people diagnosed is a race against time and unfortunately it is a race we are all too often losing.
'We are also encouraging people to talk to their friends and family about Type 2 diabetes.
' Making them aware that someone can have it for a number of years without realising it could be the vital first step towards someone being diagnosed and getting the healthcare that can give them the best chance of a long and healthy life.'
Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include being overweight, having a large waist and being physically inactive. Older people and people from a black or South Asian background are also at higher risk, as are people with a family history.
To help identify people who are at high risk, Diabetes UK and Bupa have launched a series of healthy lifestyle roadshows that will visit 50 locations over the next few months.
The roadshow teams will refer people who are at high risk to their GP for advice and support to treat it, or prevent its onset.
The series of roadshows is being launched today with an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the number of waists measured in eight hours.