Leeds turns blue for World Diabetes Day

For World Diabetes Day (WDD) on 14 November, health and civic leaders in the city are urging residents to be more aware of the condition and learn how they can prevent or manage it – and to help highlight the campaign, the civic and town halls are turning blue for the day.

Diabetes is a common condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body is not able to use it properly.

In Leeds, out of a population of around 800,000 people, approximately 44,000 people have diabetes, and a further 36,000 are at high risk of developing it. People with African-Caribbean and south Asian ancestry are more than twice as likely develop the condition.

There are a number of types of diabetes, but the main two types are type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 is where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. Approximately 10% of adults and 90% of children with diabetes will have type 1. At present, this type cannot be prevented.

Type 2 is where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react properly to insulin. 90% of adults with diabetes have this type but more than half of all cases can be prevented or the onset significantly delayed for many years.

Dr Bryan Power, clinical lead for long term conditions at NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “At present, diabetes cannot be cured and can cause a number of serious but preventable health problems. If managed well, people with diabetes can lead a full and active life – but vitally, for most people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it can be prevented.

“In Leeds, as in the rest of the UK, we’re seeing more and more people, including children, being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. We want everyone to understand that a few simple lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can dramatically reduce their risk of developing the condition.”

Valerie Bailey from Leeds has first-hand experience of doing just that. When she was expecting her first child 25 years ago, she was told she had an above average risk of developing type 2 diabetes because of her ethnic heritage and family medical history.

Valerie saw first-hand the impact that diabetes had on her Caribbean parents and grandparents and so she decided to do something about it when the risk was highlighted again during a recent NHS health check – a check-up for adults in England aged 40-74. It’s designed to spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or dementia.

“I knew that not doing anything meant a higher chance my health would suffer and that this would have a significant impact on my life,” said Valerie.

Valerie enrolled on the 10-month Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, run by health services provider Ingeus, which helps participants understand how simple, achievable actions can make all the difference.

“It was an excellent programme. I learned so much and didn’t find it challenging at all to stick to my individual plan,” added Valerie. “Mine was to take more exercise, know what to look for on food labels and be more careful in what I eat. They were positive, achievable things I could do to bring down my risk.

Once the programme was completed, Valerie was delighted to have dropped two dress sizes.”I feel so much better in myself. Plus, losing weight has given me an incentive to keep it off.”

As a mother of two now grown-up children, and a grandmother to a five-year-old grandson, Valerie is particularly proud of the fact she has been able to pass on her newfound knowledge.

“With diabetes in the family, it was important to me to share what I learned. Now we cook with less fat, cut back on portions and bring in healthier alternatives. I’m always scrutinising the fat content on labels now.”

Councillor Rebecca Charlwood, Leeds City Council Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults, said:

“I’m proud that Leeds is backing World Diabetes Day, and we’re lighting up the Town Hall and Civic Hall to make that point. We want Leeds to be the best city for health and wellbeing and diabetes is a serious and often preventable condition so I’m pleased that we’re successfully raising awareness in Leeds of how to prevent diabetes.”

If you or someone you know is at risk of or has developed diabetes, there’s lots of help available:

  • If you have type 1 diabetes, ask your diabetes team about the support available in Leeds, including the DAFNE programme, which teaches you and your family how to manage insulin and diet.
  • If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you can learn how to manage the condition through the LEEDS programme. There are sessions across the city, at weekends and on evenings. To find out more or to book your place, please call 0113 843 4200
  • The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme that Valerie enrolled on is a free personalised programme to help you with your weight, healthy eating and exercise. Speak to your GP practice team to check if you’re eligible for the programme.
  • You can see if you may be at high risk of type 2 diabetes at diabetes.org.uk/risk
  • More information, including links to information resource and support, is available at www.leedsccg.nhs.uk/health/healthy-living/diabetes