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Many diabetics fail to meet cholesterol targets

GPs urged not to see 15 health checks for diabetics as “box ticking”

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 10 September 2012

Almost 60% of people with diabetes are failing to meet their cholesterol targets despite most of them now getting it checked at least once a year, claims charity Diabetes UK.

The charity’s analysis published today urges GPs not to become complacent about their diabetic patients’ annual cholesterol check and to continue to carry out the 15 healthcare essentials – 15 basic health checks that everyone with diabetes should receive that are based on NICE guidance.

Diabetes UK said 91.6% of people with diabetes in England were now getting the annual check, according to National Diabetes Audit data, but it was concerned that large numbers of people missing their cholesterol targets meant that these checks were not resulting in improved outcomes for many people.

This is a particular worry because people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease than the rest of the population. Cardiovascular disease accounts for 44% of deaths in people with Type 1 diabetes and 52% in people with Type 2.

People with Type 2 diabetes also have twice the risk of stroke within the first five years of diagnosis compared with the general population.

The charity said it had warned healthcare professionals and their patients not to be complacent about the annual cholesterol check – one of the 15 healthcare essentials.

“We are using the one-year anniversary of the launch of the healthcare essentials to highlight the danger of them becoming a ‘box-ticking exercise’ and emphasising that any problems they identify – including poor cholesterol control – should be acted on,” said a spokesperson for the charity.

Increased use of statins over the past 10 years should have meant that improvements in cholesterol control were straightforward, said the charity, but it was unclear as to why this had not happened.

Both healthcare professionals and people with diabetes should make sure that the annual health check led to meaningful action to bring high cholesterol under control, said the spokesperson.

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “If people with diabetes have poor cholesterol control then they are at far higher risk of heart disease and stroke than someone who has poor cholesterol control but does not have diabetes. This is why these findings are so worrying.

“It is not clear why the high number of people having their annual cholesterol check is not translating into better cholesterol control, but it is an issue that is putting the health of hundreds of thousands of people at risk. We need to emphasise that annual cholesterol checks have to be the start of a process of improving unhealthy levels.

“Once poor cholesterol control is identified, the healthcare professional and the patient should work together to bring it under control. This should involve a personal target that will significantly reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease; it is also important to explain exactly why unhealthy cholesterol levels are so dangerous for someone with diabetes.”

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