Hundreds of thousands of Australians in the dark about deadly link between type 2 diabetes and heart disease

A national survey by Diabetes Australia has found two thirds of people with type 2 diabetes don’t know heart disease is the number one cause of death for people with type 2 diabetes.

Only 12 per cent of people thought they were at risk of heart disease and 6 per cent thought they were personally at risk of having a heart attack.

Yet based on the current numbers - more than 700,000 Australians living with type 2 diabetes will die from heart disease or stroke and this will shorten their life expectancy by 8-9 years. Heart disease contributes to almost two in three deaths of people with type 2 diabetes and is a major contributor to shortening the life expectancy for both men and women (8.2 years for men and 9.1 years for women).

The worrying findings have prompted Diabetes Australia to launch a new Take Diabetes 2 Heart awareness campaign.

“Heart disease is one of the most common complications that people with diabetes develop, however most people don’t know this and underestimate their risk,” Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson said.

“There are currently over 1.1 million Australians living with type 2 diabetes. Our new campaign, Take Diabetes 2 Heart, will encourage these people, and the people who love them, to have a serious heart-to-heart conversation about diabetes and heart disease and what they can do to reduce their risk.

“The good news is - our survey found 99 per cent of people would act to reduce their risk if they were aware of it.

“Lifestyle changes, including healthy eating and getting more physical activity, can significantly reduce someone’s risk.

“People with type 2 diabetes can reduce their risk of heart disease by losing some weight, being physically active, quitting smoking, managing high blood pressure and taking medication as prescribed.

“We are asking people to Take Diabetes 2 Heart and have a serious conversation with their GP about what they can do to reduce their risk.”

Professor Johnson said that while there had been a reduction in deaths from cardiovascular disease in the general population, this improvement had not been seen in people with type 2 diabetes who were still at a much higher risk of heart attacks or sudden cardiac death.

“People with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease as people without diabetes and they are likely to die much earlier,” he said.

“This risk is even higher in women, and people who develop type 2 diabetes under the age of 40, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.”

People with type 2 diabetes are encouraged to visit the Take Diabetes 2 Heart website and access a range of information resources about the campaign and heart health.

The campaign features real life stories of people with type 2 diabetes and the people who love them.

Chris and Bev have been married for more than four decades. When Chris had a heart attack a couple of years ago, it threatened their long-held plans for retirement. Yvonne and Fay have been friends for about seven years. They dance together, they holiday together and they care for each other. Fay reveals why she is concerned for Yvonne’s heart.

Visit the Take Diabetes 2 Heart website at www.takediabetes2heart.com.au