Blog by Elaine Russell, Public Health, Prevention and Self-care Lead, WMAHSN
Nowadays, it seems like there's a day in the calendar for just about everything; but national, or international days dedicated to specific issues, concerns and priorities are a very good way of attracting attention to something that really matters.
Whenever people start to talk about weight, we get defensive about shedding a pound or two (or maybe more). Have you noticed even the slim, trim, and erstwhile healthy are the same?
We have started national conversations about exercise, and diet management - not just "going on a diet", but having a healthy balanced diet - and many people have responded to this with 'Fitbits' counting steps per day, and more people than ever are listening to guidance about. five portions of fruit and veg, ‘alcohol free days', eating less red meat, - the Mediterranean diet, having less salt, and less sugar. Many people have listened, some have even done it. But…
The numbers of those who have Type 2 diabetes continue to rise, and the numbers who are at risk, or who have yet to be diagnosed, continue to climb.
Schools and work places are gradually improving with better food choices, but where there's a demand for chips, there will be chips - even if there's a fruit bowl next to the till too.
So this day – World Diabetes Day is because we still need to learn better, do more and try harder. As I sit and write this I’m thinking: I'm with you! I've spent a lot of time working in Public Health -and so often we were described as the 'FUN POLICE’. - and I get it, changing behaviour is hard. When eating becomes a chore, when exercise becomes a duty, when all those things become an obligation, and when you don't… well, it just leads to guilty feelings. And I personally reach for the block of chocolate I know I shouldn't have. It can be a vicious cycle… so why try?
Because ... every day is a step, and every time you get it right it helps. Do not get guilty and reach for the biscuit tin, just accept that this time you did what you wanted and ate those chips, that pasta, that bacon sandwich, or chocolate bar. It's one small miss. Next time there's always another choice, and opportunity, to do it differently. Focus on the positives, and leave the guilty feelings alone
Across England as a whole Type 2 diabetes affects about 8.5% of the population, but here in the West Midlands in some areas it’s as low as 8.4%, but goes as high as 11.1% (2015 figures).Making a change works; we know that a balanced diet, taking regular exercise and drinking water, while having less salt and sugar, works.
Having diabetes is not the end of the problem because it is linked to so many other conditions, from strokes, to heart conditions. So, it's really important that it is diagnosed early. That way it can be managed and treated properly Diabetes and its complications cost over £6 billion every year to treat and one in six patients in hospital has diabetes. Around nine out of 10 people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes which is closely linked to obesity and there is strong evidence that it is preventable.
A lack of exercise, poor diet and being overweight are all risk factors for developing the Type 2 disease over time.
The risks of strokes, some types of cancers, and of heart disease (to mention a few) can all be reduced - as well as avoiding diabetes itself. It doesn't mean that we won't become Type 2 but if it means that we live longer without these conditions. That's a huge benefit to us as individuals, as well as to health and care services too.
So, if you have been feeling tired and sluggish, or have the need to drink more than usual, or you know that there's diabetes in the family and it’s a while since you were lasted tested go and see your local pharmacist, who will be happy to offer advice and guidance and a quick check. The same goes for someone you care about, or care for. Don't just listen, go get checked.