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WATCH: Thousands of Cornish locals at risk of diabetes

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10:49am 20th November 2017
(Updated 10:49am 20th November 2017)

It has emerged more than 26 thousand people are living with Type 2 diabetes in Cornwall.

Health bosses reckon the same number again are at higher risk of developing the disease.

They warn it can cause other serious conditions like sight loss, kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes.

Alison Flanagan from NHS Kernow said: "As well as the human cost, it also costs us in terms of money.

"9% of the annual NHS budget is spent on treating diabetes or complications and this adds up to about 8.8 million per year".

Despite the worrying figures, locals in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are already feeling the benefits of a new prevention programme

Portreath grandad Peter O'Donnell is just one of 26 thousand people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the region.

The 74-year-old wants to help raise awareness of the condition and how others at risk could avoid this potentially life-threatening disease.

He said although he knew he was overweight and has always struggled to shed the pounds, it came as a surprise when he received a letter from his surgery which showed his blood glucose level was at the uppermost limit, warning that he could develop Type 2 diabetes.

Peter said "I wasn't expecting that at all and it was a real wake-up call", adding that for the last 50 years, he has tried all manner of diets to lose weight.

He said the warning from the doctor made him feel that this was his "last chance saloon".

Peter's GP advised him to make some simple lifestyle changes and referred him to the local Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, delivered by Living Well Taking Control.

After just eight weeks on the programme, Peter, who runs a cleaning business and spends his days hiking up and down stairs carrying vacuum cleaners, has lost more than two stone.

He now weighs just less than 20 stone, and has finally found a way to eat that doesn’t leave him feeling deprived.

Peter said: "Donna Darby (Living Well Taking Control facilitator) was very good and enthusiastic. She really does not want people to get diabetes but it wasn't a prescriptive course of 'you must do this and you must do that'."

Instead, he followed Donna and the programme's 'science-based guidance', adding that along with swapping to low fat cereals and replacing his lunchtime McDonald's with fruit, he still enjoys eating the food he loves.

"My wife is a very good cook but now I don't have it on a dinner plate but a side plate. Whenever I have tried to diet before it has left me feeling horrible, this doesn't feel like that and it doesn't feel like a diet but a minor change in my lifestyle.

"You have nothing to lose from this course. If you end up being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it's hard to hear but you could go blind or need parts of your body amputated if you don't make changes".

Peter added that he is going to keep on going and says: "I have more energy and I want to get down to 12 stone and get in my wetsuit and start diving again".

The local monthly Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP) sessions cover nutrition and exercise and suggested behavioural changes to maintain a healthy weight and become more physically active.

The NHS DPP was launched in April last and more than 1,200 people have been referred on to the free programme.

Dr Alison Flanagan, NHS Kernow's clinical lead for long-term conditions, added: "This new hands-on support is putting people in control of their health and the early results show it is working and reaching those most at risk.

"We are encouraging those that think they may be at risk to speak to their GP to find out more about the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme".

Dr Caroline Court, Interim Director of Wellbeing and Public health for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, added: "Diabetes can have many serious effects on a person's health, such as increased risk of a stroke, heart attack or impaired eyesight, so it's really important that we can help people to reduce those risks.

"Not only will people lower their risk of diabetes, by leading a lifestyle balanced with good diet and physical activity, they can improve their overall health.

"By improving the health of our population we can reduce the impact on NHS services at a time when resources are so vital".

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS England's National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity, said: "Tackling diabetes continues to be one of the biggest healthcare challenges of our time, as the number of people with Type 2 diabetes continues to rise.

"The Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme is part of an integrated approach to tackling both the prevention of Type 2 diabetes and the successful management of those that already have diabetes - Type 1 and Type 2".

There are estimated to be around 16 thousand adults in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly with Type 2 diabetes that have not yet been diagnosed.

Type 2 diabetes can cause serious long-term health problems. It's the most common cause of vision loss and blindness in people of working age, is responsible for most cases of kidney failure and lower limb amputation, other than accidents.

People with diabetes are also up to five times more likely to have cardiovascular disease or a stroke than those without diabetes.

Watch what to expect from the diabetes prevention programme...


If people have concerns and want support to make lifestyle changes themselves they can contact the PHIL service on 01209 313419 or visit the "preventing diabetes" section on the diabetes UK website.

10:49am 20th November 2017

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