This year the focus of World Health Day (7 April) is diabetes. No-one should underestimate the seriousness of diabetes as left untreated or poorly managed it can lead to devastating complications such as amputation, blindness, heart attack and stroke.
Here at Diabetes UK our Know Your Risk tool, which tells you your risk of Type 2 diabetes, has just been completed for the millionth time. We're delighted that so many people have gone online to find out their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Hopefully thousands of people who discovered they were at high or moderate risk of developing Type 2 diabetes have since visited their GP and had a blood test.
They may have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, or, if their blood test showed they had increased blood glucose levels but did not have diabetes we hope they are now being given the help and support they need to reduce their long-term risk of developing the condition by eating a healthier diet and taking more exercise. This is because we know that obesity counts for up to 80-85 per cent of the overall risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Despite the fact that 1 million seems like a very large figure the fact remains there are an estimated 11.9 million people in the UK at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, because they are overweight or obese, and 549,000 people have Type 2 diabetes but haven't been diagnosed yet. That puts the one million completions of our Know Your Risk tool into some perspective and of course it's a real worry that so many people are living their lives not realising they have such a serious health condition.
But in amongst all these enormous figures we've also noticed something else rather interesting. Despite the fact that slightly more men than women are being diagnosed with diabetes - audits suggest that about 56 per cent of all adults with diabetes in the UK are men and 44 per cent are women - not nearly as many men are using our Know Your Risk tool. In fact more than 30 per cent more women then men are using the 3-minute online test than men.
Don't get me wrong, we certainly want women to keep using the tool, but it's clear that we need to encourage many more men to use it, especially given their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is greater. Far too often we hear from men with Type 2 diabetes that they just didn't realise how serious diabetes could be until they were affected by life-changing complications.
It is well-known amongst healthcare professionals that women are more likely to visit their GP and be more involved with their health. Some men can feel that by going to their doctor they'll be seen as someone who is making a fuss. Their default option may be simply to do nothing and carry on.
Big mistake. Burying your head in the sand is helping no-one, especially not the person involved. These men are someone's brother or son, father or friend, husband, partner or close relative. As a man, I understand that it is sometimes easier to avoid knowing but we all need to be encouraged to use the Know Your Risk tool and, if you discover you are at high or moderate risk of Type 2 diabetes, to visit your GP.
So, if you are a man reading this and know you are carrying a bit too much weight around the middle, or you are at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes because of other risk factors such as your ethnicity or family history, then there's no time like the present to take our Know Your Risk score. It's time to man up for everyone's sake.
This World Health Day we want to encourage EVERYONE to become more Type 2 diabetes aware, but especially the men who may not think that Type 2 diabetes is something to worry about. And if you care about a man who you think might benefit from using our Know Your Risk tool then send them the link to this article. There really is no time like the present to give our health the focus it deserves.
Click on diabetes.org.uk/risk
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