DIABETIC Mike Pritchard felt a range of emotions when he was diagnosed with the condition in 2005.
The 66-year-old, of Barbary Lane, Ferring, is one of 51,591 people living in West Sussex who currently has diabetes, although thousands more go undiagnosed.
Research undertaken by Diabetes UK shows that the number of cases in West Sussex alone has risen by 1,168 in the last year, and it is estimated that 8.4 per cent of the population of West Sussex will be living with diabetes by 2020.
The biggest rise is expected to be in new cases of Type 2 diabetes, which already accounts for about 90 per cent of diabetes cases nationally.
Mr Pritchard, who works part-time for NHS property services, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes eight years ago.
He recalled: “I had only ever been to the GP for statins before then but when I was called in for my annual blood pressure check they found that it was pretty high.
“When I went back the following week it was the same which prompted a full blood test and an ECG to identify the reasons behind it.
“Everything came back fine except for my blood sugar levels which were 14.5, the diabetic level.
“I think looking back that I had felt more thirsty than normal during this time and I was getting cans while I was working because I could not quench my thirst.
“I was also getting up in the night to go to the loo, but I thought I was getting old and that was all.
“When I found out I thought, ‘Oh my Goodness’. I felt really concerned because I did not know at first what it was going to mean and to what extent it would be life-changing.
“Since then I have been monitored, and my eyes and feet are also regularly checked.”
Mr Pritchard, who has two grown-up children, said the diagnosis has forced him to be more aware of his diet.
“As a family we have always eaten reasonably well with lots of fruit and vegetables and brown bread and fibre.
“But you have to be careful about what you put in and if you do overindulge then it is best to be very careful the next day.
“This has made me more aware of everything. If someone has brought cakes into the office I will try to choose something that is plainer than I might have gone for before.
“I also know now that I need to do activities like walking and bike riding from time to time.”
Unlike Type 1 diabetes, which has nothing to do with lifestyle or weight and tends to occur in younger people, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented.
Mr Pritchard said: “Exercise and diet are paramount and I think that can be a problem if you are working in a sedentary job.
“Type 2 diabetes is definitely more common and it is a huge cost to the NHS.
“It is a ticking time-bomb but it is down to people’s lifestyles and if you are overweight, that is a contributory factor.
“If people can lose some weight it does help with both blood sugar and with blood pressure.”
Mr Pritchard is treasurer of the Diabetes UK voluntary group in Steyning.
He said: “We formed in 2011 and we hold monthly support meeting groups for people with diabetes, particularly those who have recently been diagnosed and don’t know where to go.
“Some people are very apprehensive when they are first diagnosed and we try to reassure them that it is not the end of the world, it is more a question of making small changes and working with your medication.
“One of the main problems is with elderly people as they do not take their medication regularly, so our aim is education.”
Diabetes UK is currently running a campaign to warn people of the dangers of diabetes, which can include blindness, amputation, stroke and heart attacks.
Jill Steaton, Diabetes UK’s regional manager for the south east, said: “It is alarming that the number of people with diabetes in West Sussex has gone up by 1,168 in a single year and addressing this situation needs to be one of the top health priorities in the area.
“Given that the increase in diabetes cases is mainly due to a sharp rise in Type 2 diabetes, we need to get much better at preventing cases of Type 2.
“A vital first step towards this is to ensure both that people realise how serious it is and also that they understand their own personal risk so that if they are at high risk they can make the lifestyle changes that can help prevent it.
“This is why we need to raise awareness that if people are over 40, overweight, have a large waist, or have a family history of diabetes, they need to get a risk assessment, as should people from who are South Asian and aged over 25.
“I know that we all have busy lives and that thinking about future health can be uncomfortable, but it is only if people in West Sussex grasp the nettle and get their risk assessed that we can start to bring the rise in diabetes in the area to an end.”