People in Swindon most at risk of developing diabetes are being encouraged not to overlook an invitation to a free prevention course that could help put the brakes on the condition before it even begins.

Experts suggest that up to 20,000 adults in Swindon are at risk of developing type two diabetes due to poor diet and lack of exercise, which is why those on the verge of becoming diabetic are being invited to take part in the Healthier You: Diabetes Prevention Programme.

Designed to help people eat well and get active, the programme supports individuals over a nine-month period to reverse the early symptoms of diabetes.

More than 1,500 people across Swindon have been invited to take part in the programme but, as of March 2019, around a third of invitations have either been ignored or discarded.

Dr Ayoola Oyinloye, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, said: “It is extremely worrying that so many people are choosing to ignore this offer of free help.

“Type two diabetes is preventable, and this programme gives people most at risk the power to take back control of their own health and make the changes that could add years to their life.

“I’d encourage anybody with an invitation letter just sitting in a drawer or on a table not to ignore it, and to make today the day they take a step towards a healthier lifestyle.”

The call to action is being made to coincide with Diabetes Prevention Week, which runs between Monday 1 and Sunday 7 April.

Type two diabetes is a condition that causes the level of sugar in a person’s blood to become too high.

If left untreated, it can lead to other significant health problems, some of which can cause a threat to life, such as heart disease and stroke.

Janet Tooze, 68, took part in the Healthier You: Diabetes Prevention Programme after speaking with her GP about her high blood sugar levels.

She said: “It was a gradual education of what was right and what was wrong, and how to make the correct choices.

“But it was done in such a way that made you really want to do it, and now I’ve lost more than a stone and people keep telling me how great I’m looking.

“I keep telling others about it. I know lots of people who have got the letter and ignored it, but it really isn’t something that should be ignored.”

Each Healthier You: Diabetes Prevention Programme group can provide support for up to 25 people, all of whom are over 18 and not yet diagnosed with diabetes.

People can check for themselves if they fall into the at-risk category by using the online Know Your Risk tool, which can be found at www.diabetes.org.uk.

Although patients cannot self-refer on to the programme, more information can be found by talking to a GP or visiting www.nhs.uk.