A drop of blood suffices for the diagnosis, but many people are still unaware they have diabetes. It is the leading cause of heart attacks and other serious illnesses and affects 32 million Europeans between the ages of 20-79. This number is expected to grow due to an ageing European population. To improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment, the EP is calling for an EU-wide diabetes strategy.
Every year 325,000 deaths in the EU are attributed to diabetes, which eauqls one every two minutes. About 10% of people between 20-79 in the EU live with diabetes and this is expected to go up to 16.6% by 2030. Half of all people with diabetes are not aware that they have it. In most member states, diabetes is responsible for 10% of healthcare expenditure.
Prevention is key
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by an auto-immune reaction when the body's defence system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and the body can no longer produce the insulin it needs.
However, the most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes. This means the body is able to produce insulin but it is either not sufficient or the body is not responding to its effects. The main risk factors are smoking, a poor diet, a lack of physical activity, and alcohol consumption. It can be prevented by leading a health lifestyle.
Aims of the strategy
On 14 March MEPs adopted with an overwhelming majority a non-legislative report calling for an EU-wide diabetes strategy. The strategy should focus on prevention, diagnosis, treatment and research. National diabetes programmes should be created and there should be coordination and funding of European diabetes research, especially to identify the risk factors for Type 1 diabetes.