ON November 14 every year, millions of people around the world come together to raise awareness of diabetes.

But as doctors and health officials warn, it takes a year-long approach to lifestyle and diet changes to make a real difference in preventing or reversing the condition.

There are estimated to be more than four million people living with type two diabetes in the United Kingdom, many without a diagnosis, with over 38,000 people across County Durham and Darlington affected by diabetes.

The condition is caused when an individual’s body cannot produce enough insulin, which leads to high blood sugar levels. Common symptoms include feeling very thirsty, passing urine frequently and tiredness.

There are a number of so-called at-risk groups of contracting type two diabetes, including anyone who is overweight or has a close relative with diabetes.

Without the right treatment, type two diabetes can lead to a series of health problems, including heart disease, stroke and loss of feeling in feet.

Donna, from Durham, was just 37 when she was diagnosed earlier this year. She recognised the vital importance of changing her lifestyle to prevent any further complications.

When Donna was diagnosed, she recalls standing in front of the fridge in tears.

Now, having attended a diabetes management course put on by her local hospital trust, the mother of two feels in control of her diabetes thanks to a low-carb diet and increased physical activity.

“I wasn’t sure what I could eat, with my diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Now I feel I am taking control of my diabetes,” she said.

“My eldest daughter identifies with me so it was important that I showed her how I could take control.”

Donna attended the lifestyle course with her husband Simon and dad Robin, who also has type two diabetes.

The whole family has significantly reduced portion sizes and the amount of processed foods they eat.

“We used to eat processed foods a lot for convenience. We struggled for time to produce fresh meals but are really starting to enjoy it.”

The whole family has noticed changes around weight loss within the first six weeks, and are increasing their physical activity.

Arthur Tyrell was diagnosed with type two diabetes in November 2017 and knows full well the benefits of lifestyle changes after being able to reverse the condition.

“I had been living a very sedentary lifestyle, with little or no exercise during the day. I also enjoyed a drink and consumed alcohol most days.

“In early December 2017, I started a weight loss programme and I reduced my calorie intake to 1,500 per day. Amazingly, my weight just started to come off.

“I also started an exercise routine by walking every day. I started off with just small distances and gradually built up the length and duration. I am now walking an hour a day.

“My GP has confirmed that I am no longer diabetic but it is essential I continue to monitor to monitor my diet and keep up with my physical activity.”

Arthur’s message to anyone with type two diabetes is clear.

“I can strongly recommend taking up some form of exercise, starting with small steps at a time. It certainly worked for me," said the 81-year-old.

“I am indebted to my GP for diagnosing type two diabetes in good time to enable me to take steps to overcome the problem.”

NHS bosses across County Durham and Darlington are working together with Diabetes UK to make patients aware of the signs of type two diabetes to look out for and the lifestyle changes which can help prevent the condition.

There will be an NHS stand in the market place in Durham City centre today with a clear message of ‘detection, prevention and support’ for patients.

Dr Srikanth Mada, clinical lead for diabetes and endocrinology at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: "The theme this year is Diabetes and the Family – it is a great opportunity to learn more about type two diabetes and people will have an opportunity to speak to experts to get more information.

"The service will be carrying out blood glucose checks, and will be joined on the day by a range of services who can provide health and wellbeing support for people with diabetes."

Anyone concerned about their risk of developing type two diabetes, visit https://riskscore.diabetes.org.uk/start.