The threat of diabetes in the UK has hit the headlines again after charity Diabetes UK warned that a staggering seven million people across the country are thought to have prediabetes, putting them at a 15-fold greater risk of developing the disease.

Prediabetes, which is also known as impaired glucose regulation, is a condition characterised by a higher than normal level of glucose in the blood but not quite at the levels seen in patients with Type II diabetes. But, as the charity points out, recent research shows that prediabetes can itself cause long-term damage, particularly to the heart and circulatory system.

Unlike Type II diabetes, however, prediabetes can in many cases be reversed and the risk of its progression to full-blown forms of the condition slashed by as much as 60% through simply adopting a healthier lifestyle by improving diet, boosting exercise and shedding some pounds.

The current snowballing prevalence of Type II diabetes in the UK is one of the country’s toughest healthcare challenges. Aside from the management of the disease itself, diabetes can lead to a whole host of other serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and blindness, all presenting a tremendous burden on health service resources, and some estimates claim the condition is already costing the National Health Service a breath-taking £1 million an hour.

“Identifying and educating people with prediabetes is vital, as it’s not too late for many to make healthy lifestyle changes, reverse the condition completely and reduce their risk of developing Type II diabetes,” said Diabetes UK chief executive Douglas Smallwood. And, pointing to figures published by the charity last week showing that more than 145,000 new cases of mainly Type 2 diabetes were diagnosed in the UK in the past year alone, he stressed: “It’s time for all of us to get serious about our health if we want to have any chance of defusing the ticking timebomb of Type II diabetes”.

In an attempt to help slow down the rising rates of the disease, the charity has launched a new campaign - crowned Get Serious – which is calling on people to get involved in the fight through either changing their lifestyles or volunteering, fundraising and campaigning. The group has also called on doctors to better highlight the potential dangers of the prediabetes to patients and how they can best avoid its progression to Type II diabetes.