Diabetes is an ‘absolute pandemic’, doctor warns
- Credit: Archant
'It's an absolute pandemic' - that is a doctor's stark warning amid the growing problem of diabetes.
However Dr John Flather said that even though more people are being diagnosed with what he called a 'lifestyle disease' - and many more suffer from it without even realising - it is one of the rare illnesses where you can reverse your symptoms.
Dr Flather, a former Hadleigh GP who is now a diabetes expert for Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) - which is responsible for health services in the area - said there were 18,000 cases of diabetes there at the moment, up from 15,000 a few years ago.
MORE: Diabetics urged to check feet in new campaignAlthough that is only 5pc of the total population, Dr Flather said 32pc of people with diabetes have not been diagnosed.
While suffering from symptoms such as tiredness and excessive hunger or thirst, many people are not aware that they have diabetes.
'Some of the symptoms are quite vague,' he explained.
'If you've got type one diabetes it's a different matter but if you've got type two, it's not that obvious.
'If you're feeling ill, it's worth going to have a check-up. The danger is that by the time of diagnosis, it has already started to damage your kidneys and nervous system.'
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Dr Flather dubbed type two diabetes a 'lifestyle disease' that is 'often related to waist circumference and being overweight'.
He added: 'Unfortunately the things people like to eat are white bread and fat.
'These are the things people love to eat but will kill you.'
However he said: 'There have been recent studies which have shown you can actually reverse the symptoms by going on a really low carb diet.
'If you exercise more, you can completely turn it around.'
In Norfolk and Waveney, almost 1,400 patients have been helped by the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NDPP) since its launch in the area August 2016.
The programme helps people to lose weight, improve their diets and increase exercise to help minimise the risks.
Dr Tony Palframan, GP at Heathgate Medical Practice, Poringland, is leading a review on diabetes in South Norfolk.
He said: 'We're so pleased that patients are reaping the benefits of the programme, not only improving health but their overall outlook on life.
'The NDPP public health programme educates people about the importance of what we use to fuel our bodies and the impact our lifestyles can have on our health.
'Through tailored behavioural change, the local population can really benefit.'
Type two diabetes is a growing public health problem which puts additional pressure on the NHS budget.
Diabetes accounts for around 10pc of the annual NHS budget. This is nearly £10bn per year.
Lifestyle factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise and being overweight play a significant role in many people with the condition.
'The messages really are healthy eating and weight loss,' Dr John Flather said.
'The foods that cause the problems are the ones that are high in GI.
'Porridge and blueberries is the perfect breakfast - white toast and sugar is the worst.
'Diabetes is one of the few diseases where we can, by being careful, prevent ourselves from getting it.'
More than 3m people in England already have type two diabetes and, according to Diabetes UK, it is estimated that as many as 4m people could have the disease by 2025.
If current trends persist, one in every three people will be obese by 2034 and one in 10 will develop type two diabetes.