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14 November 2016
One person in 16 in Bedfordshire has diabetes, a serious illness which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, sight loss and amputation if it is not well managed. It also bring risks of serious complications from infections such as flu.
And like the national picture, over 9 out of 10 people diagnosed have Type 2 diabetes which is usually associated with lifestyle, diet, weight gain and low levels of exercise. Bedfordshire health experts say that figure will go on rising, to almost 1 in 10 over the next 10 – 15 years.
But a pioneering group in Bedfordshire is empowering diabetic patients to take control of the disease, change their lifestyles and take actions which improve their health and ultimately their life expectancy.
Community Health Champion Simon Gooch helped set up the patients’ group and said:
“The Diabetes UK local group was set up to help improve the health of local people with diabetes and one of the most effective ways to help make essential lifestyle changes is through peer support and education.
Group members make decisions on what topics are important to them and then we organise health professionals to provide workshops on those topics.
The group is very ambitious and in the future aims to establish a diabetes exercise class locally, emotional support for those with diabetes, a new group in Queen’s Park, Bedford and to work closely with Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG) to provide feedback on local services.”
Chris Milton, who has had diabetes for four years and lives in Bedford said: "When I was first diagnosed with diabetes I felt lost and overwhelmed.
The Bedford Diabetes UK group has helped me to learn more about diabetes enabling me to self-care, meet people in a similar situation and know where to get appropriate help when I need it.
Now that I accept I have diabetes, I aim to manage my condition well to prevent complications in the future, and I try to pass on information I learn to others and encourage people to make lifestyle changes to prevent them from getting diabetes."
Dr Shashidhar Ponnala is BCCG’s clinical lead for Diabetes and is passionate about helping diabetic patients to manage their condition so that their health does not deteriorate.
“There is so much information available to help people manage their diabetes with better diet, exercise plans, and education about hidden sugar and fat in many food and drink products. Modern technology is a great help and I recommend apps that patients can use on their mobile phones to help them monitor diet and exercise.
One of the best things anyone with diabetes can do at this time of year is make sure they get the flu jab which is free to anyone with a long term health condition: people with diabetes are at risk of serious complications from flu.
So when should you see a doctor? If you are over 40 and are overweight, have excessive thirst, need to go to the loo several times a night, or have unexpectedly lost weight it would makes sense to get checked out by a GP.
Public Health estimate there are over 5,000 undiagnosed cases of diabetes in Bedfordshire. This means people’s health is deteriorating because they don’t know they have diabetes and are not making changes to their lives that could make a difference, or getting treatment.
Finding out your risk of Type 2 diabetes only takes a few minutes. You can use the Diabetes UK Know Your Risk Tool online at: www.riskscore.diabetes.org.uk - it could be the most important thing you do today.”
More information about diabetes can be found at www.diabetes.org.uk
Photo caption: The patients’ group at London Road Surgery, Bedford provides support to help improve the health of local people with diabetes.