Bradford’s diabetes epidemic and what’s being done to tackle it

DURING Diabetes Week which runs until Sunday, the University of Bradford is raising awareness of the disorder. The Bradford district has the highest rate of diabetes in the UK, with more than one in ten of people in the district diagnosed as diabetic – 11 per cent – and many more pre-diabetic or undiagnosed.

The University of Bradford is currently carrying out a number of cutting edge research projects into diabetes and what can be done to support people with the disorder. There are three main types of diabetes; Type 1 is caused by a lack if insulin creation in the pancreas, Type 2 is caused by a poor diet, being overweight or obese and not doing enough exercise, while Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women.

It’s this third form which Professor Anne Graham is leading a consortium of clinicians, scientists and researcher on to identify how to better predict which women will deliver babies which are larger than usual for their gestational age, and makes use of the pioneering Born in Bradford programme. Women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at a much higher risk of having very large babies, which may require early delivery or a C-section. Rates of gestational diabetes are increasing globally and it is common in Bradford, and predicting who will be at highest risk can help identify the safest delivery method earlier.

Dr Liz Breen, director of the Digital Health Enterprise Zone, said: “The advancement of diabetes prevention, screening, diagnosis and patient support is a key area of concern for our Bradford population. Researchers within DHEZ , working with our NHS, professional and business colleagues, will collaborate to design and deliver digital health solutions to support diabetes care.”

While gestational diabetes usually goes away after childbirth, mothers and their children are at a greater risk of Type 2 diabetes, as well as obesity and cardiovascular problems.

Dr Donald Whitelaw, Consultant in Diabetes in Endocrinology at Bradford Royal Infirmary, added: “Diabetes in pregnancy affects around 500 women in Bradford each year with risks of serious harm to mothers and their babies. Preventing and reducing these risks are key targets to keep the population healthy.”

The University of Bradford’s Dr Kirsten Riches-Suman has also been looking into the impact of Type 2 diabetes on the heart and blood vessels. Using her expertise she discovered the building blocks of blood vessels behave differently in Type 2 diabetes sufferers, making them age prematurely and increasing the risk of blockages, and it can take up to a decade to reverse the problem. This highlights, Dr Riches-Suman said, why it’s critical early pre-diabetes diagnosis is made to improve heart health in patients.

PhD student Alisah Hussain, who is working on the project, said: “Growing up in Bradford has made me want to be a part of this cutting edge research looking at early diagnosis and personalised medicine approaches in the longer term. With the university’s internationally recognised expertise and facilities, we can help our local community not only now, but also for future generations.”

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