The British Heart Foundation’s project will accelerate the search for better prevention and treatment of diabetes.
People living with diabetes could be set to benefit from a major research initiative aimed at establishing a link between diabetes and heart disease – two of the most pressing global health crises.
The project – led by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Data Science Centre – will enable researchers from across the UK to safely access health data sets. It will also speed up the search for better prevention and treatment of diabetes.
The new initiative, entitled the ‘Diabetes Data Science Catalyst’, is a partnership between the BHF, Diabetes UK and Health Data Research UK. It aims to discover ways of lowering the rates of type 2 diabetes while improving care for those with all types of diabetes and reducing the risk of heart disease.
The catalyst builds on the BHF’s £10m investment in the BHF Data Science Centre to promote the safe and ethical use of health data for research into the causes, prevention and treatment of diseases of the heart and circulation.
Professor Ewan Pearson, associate director of the BHF Data Science Centre, explained: “It’s shocking that 590 heart attacks and 770 strokes are caused by diabetes in the UK every week. This collaboration will allow a deeper understanding of the causes and progression of diabetes as a major cardiovascular risk factor, and, most importantly, drive improvements in patient care to save lives.”
Graeme Smith, 47, from Stoke-on-Trent, was diagnosed with a heart attack in 2018 after experiencing pains at a music festival. During his stay in hospital for a triple bypass operation, he discovered that he also had type 2 diabetes, which had damaged his heart.
He reflected: “I had no obvious symptoms of type 2 diabetes, and the diagnosis came as a shock, especially after a heart attack. I am really pleased to see that researchers are taking this step to better understand the links between heart health and diabetes and I hope that the Diabetes Data Science Catalyst speeds up the search for new treatments.”
More than 4.9 million people in the UK are living with diabetes and 90% of those have type 2 diabetes. Cardiovascular diseases – such as heart attack and stroke – are among the leading causes of death in people with diabetes, who are up to three times more likely to develop a heart condition than the general population. Furthermore, diabetes damages blood vessels, making them easier to become clogged or blocked.