ONE in three people with diabetes could be risking their health by keeping their condition a secret.
The survey has been carried out by leading health charity Diabetes UK among sufferers in the Yorkshire and Humber region.
Worryingly 35 per cent of diabetics felt they were unable to talk about their illness and nearly half of those surveyed admitted that keeping it a secret had impacted on how they managed their condition.
But in Calderdale help and support is at hand thanks to the diabetes unit based at Calderdale Royal Hospital. Here there is a dedicated team which includes lead clinician in diabetes, Dr Vijay Bangar, consultant Dr Abdu Mousa, four specialist diabetes nurses including Angela Sealeaf as well as specialist dieticians - all of whom can help, advise and reassure patients.
“It is all about educating patients about diet, exercise and lifestyle and finding effective treatments,” explains Angela.
“It’s very important to come up with a programme that suits the individual.”
Vijay agrees. “One size does not fit all so having tailor-made treatment is essential.”
He adds that new treatments have been coming out, particularly over the past five years or so and it is important to keep abreast of these changes.”
“It’s important for the patient too to have all the information they need. I would encourage patients to join a group so that they can remain well informed. Education is all about prevention and if we can prevent further cases of diabetes developing then that is a job well done.
Diabetes UK is now working hard to educate, inform and support those with the condition, and chief executive, Barbara Young admits the recent findings are disturbing. The survey reveals that a quarter of people keep quiet about their condition for fear of discrimination or in the case of young people, bullying.
“We have to ask why so many people with diabetes keep it a secret,” she says.
“Learning to live with and managing diabetes is challenging enough without the physical and psychological impact of such a burden.”
One person who believes diabetes should not be a stigma is former Halifax Rugby Union coach Kevin McCallion.
“Managed properly there is no reason why you cannot lead a full and busy life,” says the 47-year-old who is now looking forward to a new and exciting challenge - in September Kevin will take over the headship of Brooksbank School, Elland.
Kevin was diagnosed with diabetes 13 years ago and admits if was “a bit of a shock.”
“I had always played sport and been relatively healthy and of course you hear about conditions like diabetes but you always think ‘it won’t happen to me.’ I think what’s important though is to take it on board and learn to live with it, to manage it. Once you understand it and learn how to deal with it, the impact on your lifestyle is considerably less.”
Kevin, formerly acting head at Park Lane School, adds since being diagnosed himself he has been surprised at how many people the condition affects - especially among the young population.
“I think having diabetes myself has given me an understanding of what it’s like for young people. They can sometimes be embarrassed about it because it doesn’t look cool with their friends but I hope that being frank about my condition, I might encourage others to talk about it. There should not be a stigma.”
Kevin with the help of Vijay now plans to organise a number of talks and events for his students which would cover a variety of health issues - diabetes included.
“It seems especially fitting since Brooksbank is a sports college,” says Vijay.
“We want to get across the message that having a condition such as diabetes need not hold you back.”
A number of celebrities have endorsed this year’s Diabetes Week. Among them pop star Alexandra Burke, whose mother has the condition and former Tottenham and England footballer Gary Mabbutt and Olympic rower Sir Steve Redgrave, now honorary vice-president of Diabetes UK - both of whom have diabetes.
“There is no reason why you still can’t achieve your dreams but it does take a lot of patience to work out the right routine,” says the five times gold medallist.
“I decided very early on that diabetes was going to live with me, not me live with diabetes.”
There are now 240,000 people diagnosed with diabetes in the Yorkshire and Humber region and during Diabetes Week, Diabetes UK has been raising awareness of the importance of talking about the condition.
“Here at the diabetes clinic, there are always people who are willing to listen,” says Vijay.
l For more information about diabetes, visit www.diabetes.org.uk