The Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme offers support and guidance to anyone who would like to make changes to their diet and lifestyle to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The programme is in place across Norfolk and Waveney, and anyone who thinks they might be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and would like to be referred to the programme should visit their GP practice.
One Norfolk and Waveney resident who has used his local Healthier You service is Russ Clarke. Russ is a 54-year-old father of two, and as of seven weeks ago, a grandfather of one. His career as an IT manager with the NHS meant his days were fairly sedentary, but Russ felt his keen interest in playing rugby and supporting his team meant he maintained an active lifestyle. So Russ was very surprised to learn he was at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Russ said: “After experiencing some heart palpitations one Friday evening, I went to see my GP on the Monday morning, and was referred for some tests. I was relieved when the tests came back clear, but my cardiologist recommended I have some blood tests.
“Then my GP told me that my levels of HbAc1 (a measure of blood sugar levels) were high, and that I was at risk of developing diabetes. This shocked me. It was something I’d never even thought about, so I was really keen to join the diabetes prevention programme when I was told about it, and I went for my initial assessment a couple of weeks later.”
Russ joined a Healthier You group that met in North Walsham and went to two-hour sessions once a week for seven weeks. Russ said. “Initially I felt like ‘what have I done wrong’ but then I realised that the earlier I get help, the more time I have to make changes.”
Russ was offered personalised advice and support about exercising more and improving his diet.
Russ said: “I walk more, I walk the dogs every morning and evening and I park ten minutes away from the office. But what’s changed my life is the nutrition advice: I learnt something new at every session, it was like breaking all my preconceived ideas about food. I pass on all the tips to my wife and my children, I’m passionate about it. I make small swaps like having red wine instead of beer, or a mushroom bhaji instead of rice when I have a curry. One of my favourite meals in the winter is sausage and mash, so I have cauliflower mash instead of potato – it looks appetising, it tastes delicious, and it’s much better for me.”
Russ has lost 12kg over the course of a year, and lowered his HbAc1 level and cholesterol significantly. “I feel great,” he said. “I have six suits I can wear again, now my waist is smaller! I used to suffer from regular heartburn and acid reflux, which I thought was just normal and used to treat myself with over-the counter-medicine: that’s completely gone now. Even though I officially retired last year, I was playing for my rugby club’s third team just last weekend! I didn’t think my weight loss was noticeable, but other people have commented. It’s a family joke that when we visit my brother in Malaga, I always have my photo taken sitting on the same statue of a donkey that’s a local landmark. And this year’s photo does look a lot different from last year’s.”
Dr Clare Hambling, a GP and West Norfolk CCG’s clinical lead for diabetes, said: “It’s fantastic to hear a success story like Russ’s and I would urge everyone in Norfolk and Waveney to think about what their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is. If you are at high risk, you might be eligible for your local Healthier You service. I would recommend taking a couple of minutes to use Diabetes UK’s online risk checking tool and if you think you might be at risk, visit your GP practice.”