The number of people in the UK living with diabetes is approaching five million with a further 12million at risk. Around 350,000 people are living in West Yorkshire.
Today is World Diabetes Day and it was revealed that Bradford has the highest percentage of people with diabetes in England at 11.14 per cent.
While type one diabetes cannot be prevented and is not linked to lifestyle, type two diabetes is largely preventable through lifestyle changes.
And measure are being taken across Yorkshire to try to reduce the number of people getting type two diabetes in the first place, including a Diabetes Prevention Programme.
Dr Waqas Tahir, Clinical Diabetes Lead for the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership and Bradford District and Craven System Programme said: “It’s almost 100 years since Sir Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin - a medicine which has saved millions of lives around the globe and has been a catalyst for other life-changing initiatives.
“The last few years have also seen huge advances in the adaptation and take up of digital and remote technologies, providing alternatives for people to access the care and treatment they need to reduce the risk of or manage their diabetes.
“ In West Yorkshire, for example, a third of GP practices are using Healthy.io allowing patients to use smartphone-powered home health technology to test for early signs of kidney damage. We also refer people to a number of national and local initiatives.
“This includes the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme; a free 12-week NHS Digital Weight Management Programme; and the Healthy Living app, a free online self-management support programme for adults with type two diabetes.”
Dr James Thomas, WY HCP Chair of the Clinical Forum and Clinical Chair of Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Type two diabetes is on the rise and perhaps the biggest threat to people’s health in this country with more people having the condition than cancer and dementia combined.
“It’s serious and can be a killer, if left unchecked, increasing the risk of heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease and blindness.
“We can’t change our age, ethnicity or family history – but we can take action to reduce our weight, waist and blood pressure. Even the smallest change can have a massive difference on our overall health and wellbeing.”
One man to benefit from the diabetes prevention plan is John Ebo from Leeds.
John, 53, was diagnosed as being prediabetic about four years ago.
“Like most people I made the mistake of just ignoring it,” admits John, who is currently seconded to the NHS in Leeds.
“I think the ‘pre’ bit allows you to get away with it and convince yourself because you aren’t actually diabetic everyting is okay.”
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Prediabetes means that your blood sugars are higher than usual, but not high enough for you to be diagnosed with type two diabetes.
“My family has a history of type 2 diabetes, my mum has it and my brother had to have a limb amputated as a direct result of his diabetes. It made me really take a look at myself and the risks I was running.”
He decided to refer himself onto the NHS Prediabetic Programme and he is five months through the year-long programme.
And he has kept a video diary of his journey in a bid to encourage other people to look at their lifestyles and take action before it’s too late.
“Once you actually get type two diabetes it is far harder to reverse it than to take action now and stop it.”
John says he has always had a weight problem and has been on numerous diets and lost weight but as soon as he stopped the weight piled back on.
He admits his sweet tooth and love of ice cream saw his weight reach 119.5kgs.
Obesity is one of the main causes of type two diabetes.
“I didn’t go on the programme just to lose weight, but I do have a target of reducing my weight by 10 per cent. Five months in I have reduced my weight by 5kgs, which is 5kgs less pressure on my heart,” says John from Moortown.
“My blood pressure has also reduced by ten points in five months, which is pretty impressive. I feel great.”
His blood sugar levels have also reduced.
“Normal levels are between 4.1 and 5.9 - when you are deemed diabetic, mine was 5.8 so I was really on the cusp. That has now come down to 5.0.”
And how has he achieved such results?
“It is about changing your lifestyle, but being kind to yourself,” he says.
“I have reduced my sugar intake considerably and have found a natural alternative to sugar whichas zero calories. The programme has also helped educate me about all the hidden sugars, especially when going to the supermarket.
“Even fruit juices contain a lot of sugar even if they are natural sugars so if I do have an orange juice I add water.”
He has also reduced his consumption of takeaways, something he admits increased during the pandemic.
“It was just too easy to pick up the phone or go on line and press a button and your favourite takeaway would be delivered to your door.”
John has always enjoyed cooking but now cooks more fresh vegetables and has smaller portions.
“We are all time poor but it doesn’t take a minute to steam from fresh vegetables.”
He also started to do more exercise.
“I decided to get up a bit earlier and go for a walk. I am lucky as I live near Roundhay Park. I started with 5k and now am up to 10k. I don’t like running but walking is fantastic, it is not only good for my physical health but also my mental health as it gives you time to think - it’s been really positive.”
As the days get shorter and colder he has joined a gym to make sure he keeps his exercise up.
“If I’d carried on the way I was I would have definitely ended up with type two diabetes which would have increased my risk of cardio vascular disease,” admits John.
“At the end of the day it comes down to whether you want to do something about it - only you can do it. We all know what we have to do to reduce our risk of type two diabetes. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that health is wealth.
“The key is to make sustainable changes to your lifestyle and be kind to yourself or else you won’t stick at it. If you do have a take away once in a while it doesn’t matter - I now know what I have to do to burn it off and I really enjoy doing it. It is all about balance.”