UNHEALTHY lifestyles have left the Lothians sitting on a diabetes time bomb, with one person in every ten predicted to be living with the condition within 25 years, a top consultant has warned.
It is believed that four per cent of the population – 34,000 people – are living with diabetes in the region.
Dr David Farquharson, NHS Lothian’s medical director, revealed that the proportion is set to rocket by 150 per cent within the next quarter century if more is not done to alter unhealthy lifestyles.
The financial burden on the health service is also set to increase, with medication for diabetics already costing between £10 million and £12m annually in Lothian.
Dr Farquharson, inset, said: “The risk of diabetes is closely linked to weight and lifestyle, and we expect to see a steep increase in cases over the next 25 years.
“Making lifestyle changes such as managing your weight, reducing the amount of alcohol you drink, stopping smoking and becoming more active, can all help lower the risk of developing diabetes.”
As a result of the spiralling figures, diabetes nurses could be introduced in Lothian, as they have been in other parts of Scotland, to keep a closer eye on blood sugar levels of patients.
The latest data reveals that just 46 per cent of people with Type 1 diabetes and a third of people with Type 2 diabetes had their systolic blood pressure controlled within the recommended limits, although tight control of blood pressure is not always appropriate, while 31 per cent of diabetic patients in Lothian had blood glucose limits over recommended limits.
Dr Farquharson added: “The figures are disappointing, not only in Lothian but for Scotland as a whole.”
It has also emerged that a higher proportion of diabetic patients in Lothian smokes compared with the rest of the country.
More than 31 per cent of Type 1 diabetics are smokers in Lothian, compared to a Scottish average of 25 per cent. Of Type 2 diabetes patients, 20.7 per cent smoke compared with 18.5 per cent nationally.
Health chiefs hope that the Scottish Government’s integration agenda – which will see the NHS and local authorities work more closely to deliver health services – will improve the experience of patients.
May Millward, chairwoman of the Diabetes UK West Lothian voluntary group, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes six years ago and supported the idea of diabetic nurses in Lothian.
The 59-year-old, of Philpstoun, said: “I think we are very lucky in Lothian as, from what I can gather, our health service is one of the best in Scotland if not the whole of the UK for the treatment of diabetes.
“But Type 2 diabetics are usually treated by GP practices. A lot of them are excellent but others are perhaps not so good. The challenge is to get a consistent level of service.”
The Lothian Diabetes Managed Clinical Network is also redesigning services for people with Type 1 diabetes, which is caused when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin.
Type 2 diabetes, which can be caused by lifestyle factors such as obesity, is caused when the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not react to insulin. Around nine out of every ten diabetics in Britain have Type 2 diabetes.
Around 82 per cent of people with diabetes are overweight or obese compared with 65 per cent of the general population.
According to a model used by English public health authorities, 11.8 per cent of people in Lothian could be living with diabetes by 2030, although it could also be as low as 4.8 per cent. The average prediction of 7.5 per cent was the lowest in Scotland, largely due to a younger population in the city of Edinburgh area.
A report into health inequalities, published this month, revealed that people living in deprived areas are more likely to be living with the condition than those in the most affluent.
Jane-Claire Judson, national director of Diabetes UK Scotland, said: “These new predictions are concerning and confirm that diabetes is turning into one of the main health challenges facing Scotland.
“Awareness and prevention are crucial if we want to avert this future health crisis and see the number of people with Type 2 diabetes fall. We need to encourage people to reduce their risk of developing the condition by eating healthily, maintaining a healthy weight and leading an active lifestyle.”