Rising rates of diabetes, much of it linked to lifestyle, could see 39,000 extra heart attacks by 2035, putting further strain on our creaking National Health Service and the economy as a whole.
Given all the pressing issues in modern-day Scotland – the independence question, Brexit, poverty, the lacklustre economy – it can be sometimes hard to for politicians to consider the bigger picture, our long-term future.
But one that must command their attention is the growing size of our waistbands. Put that way, it sounds trivial, almost laughable. But it is not. The National Health Service is already in trouble as our rising demands on its excellent care ramp up the pressure on doctors and nurses.
Both the Scottish and UK Governments have responded to the situation by increasing health budgets. This may prove to be an effective strategy, but only in the short-term.
That’s because the problem is largely down to us. As a nation, we are increasingly sedentary and this, combined with high-calorie diets stuffed full of fat and sugar, means we are becoming ever more over-weight and obese, increasing the rates of diseases like diabetes 2.
The current cost of treating diabetes is estimated at £10 billion, with a further £6bn spent on treating obesity. That’s more than 10 per cent of the entire amount spent on health in the UK. But diabetes also means people have a greater chance of having a heart attack or a stroke. According to the British Heart Foundation, the rising number of diabetes cases could result in nearly 39,000 more people having a heart attack by 2035.
Eventually, the NHS will not be able to cope, the economy as a whole will not be able to cope. So, somehow, we simply must change. We must find a way to stop the rise and start reducing levels of obesity. There is no other option. If we can do this, we will be healthier, wealthier and, indeed, happier, so it is, in modern parlance, a no-brainer.
We should start early, perhaps even in nursery schools, to encourage an active lifestyle. Exercise should be a daily routine in primary and secondary schools. Every child should be taught how to cook healthy, good-tasting food. Companies need to encourage their staff to be active, as many firms do in the Far East.
And all of us, individually, should take a look at our bodies in the mirror and think of ways we could perhaps be a little more active than we currently are. It could be as simple as walking to the shops, but we all must do something, because at the moment, regardless of how Brexit goes, our future looks bleak.