Grandfather Peter O’Donnell is just one of 26,000 people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
But thanks to an NHS diabetes prevention programme the Portreath resident has a new lease of life. Today, on World Diabetes Day, Mr O’Donnell wants to help raise awareness of the condition and how others at risk could avoid this life-threatening disease.
The 74-year-old said although he knew he was overweight and has always struggled to shed the pounds, it came as a surprise when he received a letter from his surgery which showed his blood glucose level was at the uppermost limit (known as prediabetes) warning that could develop Type 2 diabetes.
Mr O’Donnell said: “I wasn’t expecting that at all and it was a real wake-up call.”
He added that for the last 50 years he has tried all manner of diets to try to lose weight but the warning from the doctor made him feel that this was his “last chance saloon”.
His GP advised Mr O’Donnell to make some simple lifestyle changes and referred to the local Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, delivered by Living Well Taking Control.
After just eight weeks on the programme Mr O’Donnell, who runs a cleaning business and spends his days hiking up and down stairs carrying vacuum cleaners, has lost more than two stone and now weighs just less than 20 stone, and has finally found a way to eat that doesn’t leave him feeling deprived.
He has also seen his blood glucose level dramatically drop and now has more energy.
“Donna Darby (Living Well Taking Control facilitator) was very good and enthusiastic. She really does not want people to get diabetes but it wasn’t a prescriptive course of ‘you must do this and you must do that.”
Instead he followed Donna and the programme’s “science-based guidance” adding that along with swapping to low fat cereals and cutting out the lunchtime McDonald’s and replacing it with fruit he still enjoys eating the food he loves.
“My wife is a very good cook but now I don’t have it on a dinner plate but a side plate. Whenever I have tried to diet before it has left me feeling horrible, this doesn’t feel like that and it doesn’t feel like a diet but a minor change in my lifestyle.
“You have nothing to lose from this course. If you end up being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes it’s hard to hear but you could go blind or need parts of your body amputated if you don’t make changes.”
As for Mr O’Donnell he is going to keep on going and says: “I have more energy and I want to get down to 12 stone and get in my wetsuit and start diving again.”
The local monthly Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP) sessions cover nutrition and exercise and suggested behavioural changes to maintain a healthy weight and become more physically active.
The NHS DPP was launched in April and more than 1,200 people have been referred onto the free programme.
Dr Alison Flanagan, NHS Kernow’s clinical lead for long-term conditions, said: “Type two diabetes can cause very serious health problems. It is the leading cause of preventable sight loss in people of working age and a major contributor to kidney failure, heart attack and stroke.
“This new hands-on support is putting people in control of their health and the early results show it is working and reaching those most at risk. On this World Diabetes Day, we are encouraging those that think they may be at risk to speak to their GP to find out more about the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.”
Dr Caroline Court, Interim Director of Wellbeing and Public health for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, added: “Diabetes can have many serious effects on a person’s health, such as increased risk of a stroke, heart attack or impaired eyesight. So it’s really important that we can help people to reduce those risks. Not only will people lower their risk of diabetes, by leading a lifestyle balanced with good diet and physical activity, they can improve their overall health. By improving the health of our population we can reduce the impact on NHS services at a time when resources are so vital.”
Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity, said: “Tackling diabetes continues to be one of the biggest healthcare challenges of our time, as the number of people with Type 2 diabetes continues to rise. The Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme is part of an integrated approach to tackling both the prevention of Type 2 diabetes and the successful management of those that already have diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2”.
There are estimated to be around 16000 adults in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly with Type 2 diabetes that have not yet been diagnosed.
Type 2 diabetes can cause serious long-term health problems. It's the most common cause of vision loss and blindness in people of working age, is responsible for most cases of kidney failure and lower limb amputation, other than accidents. People with diabetes are also up to five times more likely to have cardiovascular disease or a stroke than those without diabetes.
About the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP)
Around 90% of diabetes cases relate to Type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable. Tackling obesity and the rising costs of treating diabetes and the increasing number of people living with it, show why we are right to take action through the launch of the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme - stopping people at high risk from developing Type 2 diabetes in the first place.
- The NHS DPP is run collaboratively by NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK, was officially launched last year with 27 areas covering 26 million people - almost half of the country and in June, 13 new areas of the country went live as part of Wave 2 of the programme. As set out in the recently published Next steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View, the ambition is for the programme to eventually cover the whole of the country and figures could rise to as many as 200,000 referrals of people at high risk of Type 2 diabetes and more than 80,000 people on programmes by 2018/19.
- 44% of attendees on the NHS DPP are men, a higher proportion from the most deprived versus the least deprived quintile, and 25% from black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups.
- Those referred on to the programme will get tailored, personalised help to reduce risk. This will include education on healthy eating and lifestyle choices, reducing weight through bespoke physical exercise programmes and portion control, which together have been proven to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
About World Diabetes Day:
World Diabetes Day is the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign reaching a global audience of over 1 billion people in more than 160 countries. The campaign draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public and political spotlight.
World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes.