THE BLOG

The Fight Against Diabetes and Heart Disease Must Be Fought on Many Fronts

05/01/2015 18:30 GMT | Updated 07/03/2015 10:59 GMT

The sheer scale and devastating impact of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes is often underestimated.

Around 3.2million people have Type 2 diabetes and there are 11.5million at high risk of it.

Over seven million people across the UK are living with the burden of cardiovascular disease - and every day more than 100 people will have their lives cut short by heart disease and stroke. And life expectancy for people with severe heart failure is less than that for many people with cancer.

Diabetes and cardiovascular disease are closely linked. Having Type 2 diabetes puts your heart health at even greater risk and increases your chances of a potentially life-threatening heart attack or stroke.

The sheer scale of both these conditions means that almost every family in the UK is touched by them in some way. That's a big issue for individuals, families and communities - and a massive challenge for the UK as a whole.

But in most cases, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease can be prevented. We have the power to protect ourselves against them and potentially add healthy years to our lives.

One of things we can all do in prevention terms is staying at or getting back to a healthy weight. However, our research shows nearly two thirds of people don't know how many calories they should be consuming. Almost half of us also aren't moving enough and are struggling to achieve the minimum recommended 150 minutes of physical activity a week.

With over 60% of the adult UK population overweight or obese, this may seem like an unsolvable problem, with all its implications for cost to health systems, economies, and impact on quality of life. But it can be solved.

People and families need help to understand better what having Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease means for them, and their personal level of risk. For some, this knowledge is a powerful motivator to lose weight and stay healthy.

For most, though, it's not enough, and study after study shows that this is a big issue that needs a big response from right across society. Food products need to be reformulated to remove more fats, salt and sugars. Portion sizes need to be reduced. Changes need to be made in the way retailers present their products to ensure that the healthy choice is the easy choice.

The marketing of unhealthy foods to children should be stopped, so they are not bombarded constantly by adverts for high fat salt and sugar food and drinks like burgers, chocolate and soft drinks.

Our workplaces need to get healthier, and our environments changed to ensure there are parks for us to play and walk in, cycle lanes for us to take up cycling safely, and good cheap leisure facilities nearby.

Public campaigns, to make choosing food that's good for us the normal thing and to help people be more active every day, can set the scene. National and local actions need to work together to make a real impact on what is the fastest growing and biggest health risk that causes so much misery to families and cost to the NHS.

Today we are launching a big, ambitious partnership between the British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and Tesco so we can together play a big part. Generous Tesco colleagues, customers and suppliers will be raising big funds for us. But we want to go further.

So we will be encouraging healthier eating and more exercise through a range of national and local approaches based around Tesco stores; and we will be supporting those in government, local authorities, and businesses across the food industry who are taking this great challenge seriously.

Tesco colleagues will themselves be joining together to help make one of the nation's biggest workforces more healthy.

Turning back the rising tide of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes is a big challenge, but if we all play our part it we can make a big difference in helping solve.