An Ilkley dietician is encouraging people to be aware of what they can do to reduce the risk of getting diabetes.

Barry Cullen, an Ilkley resident and spokesman for the British Dietetic Association, said it was important to focus on this chronic condition and its effect on health.

Diabetes is a condition where the amount of sugar in the blood becomes too high and if left untreated can lead to serious health consequences including stroke, heart disease, kidney damage and even blindness.

It is estimated that almost one in 16 people in the UK have diabetes with 90 per cent of adult diabetics suffering from a form of diabetes known as type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is where the body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin to lower blood sugars naturally, different from type 1 diabetes where the body produces no insulin at all.

Mr Cullan said: “One of the main reasons for the increase in diabetes is the problem of our expanding waistlines. Alarmingly, the latest figures for the UK released in February 2013 show that almost two thirds of adult men and women are defined as overweight or obese. That means that if you look around you today you don’t have to look far before seeing somebody that has a weight problem.

“Expert opinion links the rise in obesity to easy access to cheap high-energy foods in supermarkets, strong marketing of unhealthy foods and sedentary lifestyles with more people having inactive jobs and exercising less. Often we are unaware of the hidden sugar in foods and increasing our knowledge about the foods we eat, will help us reduce our risk of getting diabetes and help us control our symptoms if we have been diagnosed. Once diagnosed sadly diabetes cannot be cured however, it can and should be managed with lifestyle changes, including gradual weight loss with a calorie controlled diet, appropriate intake of sugar and starchy foods and regular exercise. Some people with diabetes however, may go on to require medication to help them control their diabetes.”

The main risk factors for diabetes type 2 are: being over the age of 40; having a family member with diabetes; being overweight or obese; being of certain ethnic backgrounds.

The main symptoms of diabetes include: feeling very thirsty; frequent urination particularly at night; feeling very tired and weight loss.