They found that tackling diabetes by picking up all cases would have the largest benefit. NHS England has identified six high-risk conditions that are currently under-diagnosed: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat), diabetes, high blood glucose and chronic kidney disease.
The analysis, led by Dr Chloe Thomas at the University of Sheffield, showed that finding and treating all patients with those conditions to current care levels could prevent 3.4 million cases of cardiovascular disease (CVD) over a 25-year period.
If all patients were managed optimally, in accordance with NICE guidelines, the figure would be even higher at 5.2 million.
The researchers said: “Substantial cost savings and health benefits would accrue if all individuals with conditions that increase CVD risk could be diagnosed, with detection of
undiagnosed diabetes producing the greatest benefits.
“Ensuring all conditions are managed according to NICE guidelines would further increase health benefits.”
Eleanor Pearce Willis, senior policy officer at Diabetes UK, said: “Of the 4.8 million people in the UK living with the condition, around a million are living with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes.
“It is very common for people to have no symptoms when they’re diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
“But unfortunately, complications can begin five to six years before some people actually find out they have the condition – making early diagnosis vital.”
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said better management of risk factors for heart disease would undoubtedly save the NHS and social care services money and save countless lives.
She said: “Millions of people in the UK are living with undiagnosed conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation which, if untreated, puts them at risk of heart attack or stroke.
“Early diagnosis of these risk factors is an absolute priority.”
Dr Rubina Ahmed, research director at the Stroke Association, said: “The biggest risks for having a stroke are high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heartbeat.
“This new paper brings together a large amount of information about six of the most common underlying health conditions that increase the risk of vascular disease and how they should be managed.
“Through earlier detection and access to the best treatments, doctors could reduce the number of people having a stroke.”
The findings were published in the online journal BMJ Open.