A dramatic rise in diabetes could see an epidemic of heart attacks and stroke in less than 20 years, it’s been warned. The British Heart Foundation predicts that nearly 39,000 people living with diabetes could suffer a heart attack in 2035 and more than 50,000 have a stroke - a rise of 29% compared to current figures.

The British Heart Foundation is calling for ‘bold action’ to combat an ‘extremely worrying trend’, in which the number of people living with diabetes is expected to reach five million in the next two decades, partly due to growing obesity rates and increasingly unhealthy lifestyles. A potential 39,000 diabetics having a heart attack would be a 9,000 increase on current figures, whilst 50,000 stroke sufferers would represent a rise of 11,000 compared to today.

The vast majority of people with diabetes in the UK have type 2, compared to just 10% diagnosed with type 1. People with diabetes are twice to four times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people without diabetes, leading to deadly heart and circulatory problems as well as conditions including angina and heart failure.

A sharp rise in people at risk of these problems would place an unprecedented burden on the NHS, with previous estimates suggesting the yearly cost of treating people with diabetes will jump to nearly £17bn by 2035, from £9.8 billion in 2012.

British Heart Foundation CEO Simon Gillespie said: “Thanks to research, we’ve made excellent progress in improving survival rates for heart attacks and strokes. However, today’s figures point to an extremely worrying trend. People with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases and the expected surge in diabetes cases by 2035 could put thousands more people at risk of a deadly heart attack or stroke.

“We can only reverse this trend by taking bold action to tackle obesity and inactivity, especially amongst young people.  This must include consideration of further regulatory action to reduce sugar and fat content in food, and to curb junk food advertising directed at young children. The food industry is not acting quickly enough to re-formulate its products, despite mounting evidence of their impact on the nation’s health.”

Cancer Research UK revealed earlier this year that seven out of 10 millennials are due to be overweight or obese by the ages of between 35 and 44, putting them at increased risk of a number of cancers as well as illnesses such as diabetes. The number of children and young people being treated for type 2 diabetes in England and Wales is also on the rise, according to latest NHS figures, with girls and youngsters from ethnic backgrounds particularly at risk.

Our news pages have many tips on making small changes towards a healthier lifestyle, such as how to lead a longer life and the health benefits of being outdoors. Having the right health insurance in place can also help you access treatment and medication for diabetes and prevent complications. If you’d like to talk in confidence with our trained team about the best policy for your health needs, call us free on 0800 862 0373.