This is a transcript of my My View column that was published in the Doncaster Star on Monday 20 November, 2017
Over four million UK people have diabetes and many more are yet to be diagnosed as they are not aware they have the disease.
That’s around six per cent of the population or one in every 16 people. So, even if you don’t have diabetes, you will probably know someone who has.
Stemming the rising tide of people who have diabetes is one of the greatest challenges the NHS faces.
Nationally, it’s thought it costs the NHS around £1.5 million an hour, or a staggering £14 billion a year – that’s the cost of treating diabetes and the long-term health complications it can cause.
Lifestyle choices generally account for much of the increasing number of people getting the disease. Many people eat to excess and don’t exercise enough, so it’s a ticking time bomb we need to diffuse.
Diabetes occurs when the amount of glucose (sugar) in a person’s blood is too high, because the body can’t utilise it properly.
There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 is where the body attacks itself and destroys insulin producing cells, causing glucose to rise in the blood. Scientists are not entirely sure why this happens, but an individual’s lifestyle is less of a factor. About 10 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 1
The vast majority – 90 per cent – of people with diabetes have Type 2, where the body can’t make enough insulin, or the insulin has less effect, again causing glucose to build up in the blood. Experts reckon nearly 60 per cent of Type 2 cases can be delayed or prevented by having a healthy lifestyle.
Fortunately, help is at hand for Doncaster people who are at risk, thanks to the local roll out of the National Diabetes Prevention Project, which has just launched.
Called ‘Healthier You’, it targets people with a borderline high blood sugar, but below the diagnosis level for diabetes. It aims to cut the number of people developing Type 2 and, by doing so, reduce the risk of heart, stroke, kidney, eye and foot problems that are associated with it.
Those at risk – who are over 18 years of age and not pregnant – will be identified by their GP surgery and invited to take part in weekly and monthly group sessions run by a specialist health and wellbeing company. They will be a combination of healthy lifestyle advice and physical activity. There will also be periodic one-to-one review sessions with a coach to help maintain their lifestyle changes. My father has been found to be pre-diabetic and is currently participating on the course in a neighbouring community.
It’s hoped that, over the two year long project, around 450 Doncaster patients will be given the help and support they need to make the day-to-day changes that will reduce their chance of getting Type 2 diabetes.