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Pandemic sees a surge in people checking their risk of type 2 diabetes

12:00am | & Health

Almost 300,000 people have accessed an online tool to check their risk of type 2 diabetes less than two months after the NHS fast-tracked access to its pioneering “Healthier You Diabetes Prevention Programme”.

Latest figures show that 291,325 people used the ‘Diabetes UK Know Your Risk’ tool since the end of July – a 637% increase compared to the previous two months. You can try it yourself by clicking here.

Access to the programme was boosted following research which showed that people are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 if they have type 2 diabetes. More than 5,000 people have now self-referred for support to lose weight and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes and the programme has capacity to support 5,000 people every week.

The NHS is now urging even more people who are at risk to check their risk and sign up. People can use the online tool, hosted by Diabetes UK, to calculate their risk of developing the condition by answering basic questions including age, weight and ethnicity. If their score comes back as sufficiently high, they can refer themselves to a local service for support, remotely or online, without having to go through a healthcare professional.

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS national clinical director for diabetes and obesity, said: “The fact that two-thirds of our nation live with being overweight or obese, coupled with the increased risk of more severe outcomes from coronavirus, means that there has never been a better time to lose weight, exercise more and eat more healthily.

“It’s great to see so many people becoming more aware of their personal risk level, but we want to see even more people signing up to the support we have available. It’s free and could be life-changing.”

The NHS’s “Healthier You Diabetes Prevention Programme” is the first national initiative of its kind in the world. More than half-a-million people have been referred to it and those who were overweight or obesity and completed the programme lost on average 3.6kg. That can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and, in some cases, reverse its onset.

Those who qualify for the programme can choose how they complete it. They can either:

  • join group sessions by video link or telephone with an experienced coach
  • or receive digital support, which includes online peer support groups and in some areas, wearable technology.

Previously, people had to go to their GP or visit a healthcare professional and get a blood test before a referral, but the risk of coronavirus has meant that fewer people have had face-to-face GP appointments and access to blood tests.

The NHS Long Term Plan set out radical action to address rising obesity levels, including by expanding the Healthier You programme so that 200,000 a year could benefit and piloting low calorie diets for those recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

• Type 2 diabetes is a common condition which causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high. It can cause symptoms like excessive thirst, needing to pee a lot and tiredness. It can also increase your risk of getting serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 is linked to lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and smoking, which means that making positive choices can reduce your risk of developing the condition or even reverse its onset. For more information, click here to visit the website of leading charity Diabetes UK.

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