Approximately 96,000 people are living with diabetes in Northern Ireland, a startling 69.3 per cent increase since 2007. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 per cent of all cases and is a serious and progressive condition. The disease can lead to early loss of life, cause preventable sight loss in working age people, and is a major contributor to kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and even amputation, yet the illness is often preventable by adopting healthier lifestyle changes.
The new diabetes prevention programme is aimed at people who have been identified as pre-diabetic – those who have been tested and have a blood sugar level slightly above the normal range – by their nurse, pharmacist or doctor. Trudy Brown, regional type 2 diabetes prevention programme manager at the PHA, said: “Often, by making simple changes to lifestyle, losing weight, adopting a healthier diet and increasing physical activity, people can alter a type two diabetes diagnosis or at least postpone it significantly.”
Participant on the Newtownards programme, Margaret McAllister, aged 62, discovered she was pre-diabetic via a routine blood test. She said: “Being diagnosed as pre-diabetic was a shock but also an important warning call.
“I was then given an opportunity to take part in the diabetes prevention programme. The facilitators offer advice and support to help you make changes to your lifestyle and I quickly realised I was eating all the wrong foods and also too much of them. I’m six weeks into the programme and I’ve already lost a stone, I’m feeling better, my concentration levels have heightened and I feel fitter and well. I would urge everyone to go on the programme. It literally has changed my life.”
Diabetes UK assistant director for local impact, Dr David Chaney, said: “We only have to look at the startling yearly increase in number of people being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes to know that we cannot ignore this very serious condition. We know that three in five cases of type 2 can be prevented or delayed by eating well, being active and achieving a healthy weight, so there is hope for the future. The more we know about diabetes the better we can fight it together, so find out if you are at risk and ask about your local diabetes prevention programme.”
The diabetes prevention programme is currently up and running across all five trust areas. People can be referred to the programme by a nurse, pharmacist or doctor.
The programme is delivered over a nine month period and is free of charge. It is facilitated by health coaches who offer help and assistance to participants, helping them change their lifestyle, diet and physical activity with the aim of postponing and even preventing type 2.
For more information on the diabetes prevention programme (DPP) email your local health trust.