Diabetes - help yourself to reduce the risk

Thousands of people across Norfolk could be living with diabetes, but are unaware they have the condition.

Norfolk has a high number of people with diabetes, with at least 52,560 people registered with the condition but it is feared there could be many more who may not know they have diabetes, leaving them at risk of further complications, such as heart disease or stroke.


To support national Diabetes Week, Norfolk and Waveney’s five Clinical Commissioning Groups are launching a campaign to promote information about how people can prevent or reduce their risk of developing diabetes along with promoting free NHS Health Checks for people aged 40 to 74 years.

Dr Clare Hambling, a professional member of Diabetes UK and a practising GP in Downham Market, said: “We have a high prevalence of diabetes in Norfolk, which is related to a range of factors. Many people are aware of the association between diabetes and lifestyle factors such as diet, overweight, obesity and sedentary lifestyle as these get a lot of media attention but other factors, including genetics, population growth, improving life-expectancy and ageing are also important.”

There are a number of different types of diabetes but the two most common are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed and people who live with type 1 diabetes must have daily injections or infusions of insulin to survive, whereas type 2 diabetes is caused when the body does not make enough insulin or does not use it properly. Type 2 diabetes can often be managed by changes to diet and lifestyle or with tablets, although some people will require insulin or other injectable therapies.

Statistics from the National Diabetes Audit show the extent of the problem within Norfolk and Waveney:

  Type 1 Type 2 Total
Norwich 1,050 8,340 9,390
South Norfolk 1,055 9,575 10,630
North Norfolk 550 6,940 7,490
Great Yarmouth and Waveney 950

12, 490

West Norfolk 855 10,755 11,610

Dr Hambling said: “Some people are unaware that they have type 2 Diabetes and may not be diagnosed until after they start to show signs of complications, which can be several months or even years after the onset of the condition. Early diagnosis and treatment is absolutely essential if we want to prevent or reduce the risk of disabling diabetes-related complications.”

Peter Shorrick, Diabetes UK Eastern Regional Director, said: “Diabetes is a serious condition and the number of people living with the condition is rising fast. Every day around 700 people are diagnosed with diabetes. Also there are around 1 million people living with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes and 12.3 million people at increased risk.

“While we know that being overweight or obese does not mean that you will develop type 2 diabetes, we do know that the risk of developing the condition increases when your waist size increases.

“We welcome this vital Norfolk initiative. Raising awareness and understanding and encouraging people to understand their risk and take action to get healthier whenever they can is so important.

“Small changes can add up to a big difference and if you are living with the condition, then there is a lot you can do to live well and reduce your risk of complications.

“During Diabetes Week, we all need to talk about diabetes, we all know that it is not always easy, but the more we communicate the more we can support each other.”

Typical symptoms of diabetes include tiredness, thirst, weight loss, going to the toilet more frequently or getting up in the night to pass large volumes of urine. Sometimes, however, the symptoms can be more subtle and less specific, with things like headache, skin infections, genital thrush or general lethargy.

Complications from diabetes can include:

  • Cardiovascular Disease, which includes conditions such as heart disease and stroke, is a leading cause of death and disability amongst people with diabetes;
  • Kidney Disease, which affects up to one in four people with diabetes;
  • Eye Disease or Retinopathy is the fourth commonest cause of blindness affecting adults in England and Wales;
  • Amputation: around 6,000 leg, toe or foot amputations take place nationally each year due to diabetes;
  • Neuropathy, or nerve damage, causes chronic pain in about 26 per cent of people with diabetes;
  • Sexual dysfunction: erectile dysfunction affected between 35 and 90 per cent of men with diabetes;
  • Dementia is a complex area of research but people with Type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of dementia;
  • Reduced life expectancy: more than 20,000 people with diabetes die prematurely each year in England and Wales.

People who are aged between 40 and 74 who do not have a known medical condition are eligible for a NHS Health Check, which assess if you are at risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke or kidney disease. Eligible patients should receive an automatic invitation from their surgery. Some pharmacies in Norfolk are also participating in the Health Check scheme. For more information go to: https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/care-support-and-health/health-and-wellbeing/adults-health/nhs-health-checks

More information on diabetes and how you can reduce your risk is available via the Diabetes UK website plus there is also a handy assessment tool to calculate your risk of developing the condition. Go to: https://riskscore.diabetes.org.uk/start

Norfolk residents also have access to free cookery course, The Joy of Food. This course is open to people over the age of 19 and aims to give people the confidence to prepare, budget and plan meals along with increasing knowledge and providing the opportunity to try new foods. For more information go to: http://www.joyoffoodnorfolk.co.uk/home

The NHS offers a free weight loss guide, which includes a free 12-week diet and exercise plan. This offers tips and advice on what to eat, including low-cost options, to help make healthy choices along with an activity chart. Go to: www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Losing-weight.aspx

The Couch to 5k and Active 10 apps can be downloaded straight onto your phone. Or go to: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week/ or https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/active10/home#hou7eXpTtTrFDsgf.97