People over 40 should be checked to see if they are at risk of type 2 diabetes, with almost two million offered a place on a diet and exercise programme, a health watchdog has said.
Every week 4,500 people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes across the UK.
Experts also said risk assessments for the condition should be carried out in GP surgeries and pharmacies.
The health watchdog, NICE, said people should also be encouraged to test themselves for the condition – which is linked to obesity – in community venues and the workplace.
Anyone attending the free NHS Health Check with their GP once they hit 40 should be screened for existing type 2 diabetes or the chance of having it in future, it said.
Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at Nice, said: “We know that helping someone to make simple changes to their diet and exercise levels can significantly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“And that this approach is a cost-effective way of managing an illness that currently costs the NHS around £8.8 billion a year.
“We need to make sure that the people most at risk have access to the care they need.”
THIS TREATMENT COULD HELP PEOPLE WITH TYPE 2 DIABETES LOSE WEIGHT.
Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, increased urination – particularly at night, and feeling tired.
The symptoms are not always obvious, and many people could be suffering with the condition for years before they learn they have it.
Pharmacists can screen for the condition and individuals are advised to take a self-assessment test, such as the Know Your Risk quiz on the Diabetes UK website.
The health watchdog said the 1.7 million people who have the highest risk of developing type 2 diabetes should be offered a place on an intensive lifestyle change programme.
These plans, such as the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, offer people a personalised scheme to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes which includes education on healthy eating, help to lose weight and exercise lessons.
Nice said it was cost effective to offer this type of help to people with a fasting glucose reading between 5.5 to 6.9 mmol/l, but that prioritisation could be given to people with a higher reading – 6.5 to 6.9 mmol/l – due to their increased risk of developing the condition.
The new guidance also sets out ways people can take more exercise and offers advice on healthy eating, such as swapping crisps for healthier snacks such as unsalted nuts.
People should also eat more wholegrain bread and cereals, beans and lentils, vegetables and fruit, and swap red meat for lean meat and fish, experts have said.
SYMPTOMS OF DIABETES