Security guard with ‘heart of an 84-year-old’ gives up the takeaways to avoid Type 2 Diabetes

An ex-security guard from Durham has beaten the threat of Type 2 diabetes by giving up the takeaways and beer that led him to have the ‘heart age of an 84 year old man’.

Robert Routledge, of Ludworth, Durham, overhauled his life and lost 2 stone using the six month Just Beat It programme, one of the NHS’ Diabetes Prevention Programme demonstrator sites.

After a trip to his GP left him reeling, special classes of exercise and healthy eating helped him lower his risk of developing the life-long condition.

The 65-year-old who lives with wife Christine, said: “It was like a slap across the face. I went to the doctor because the wife was saying I was snoring and holding my breath when I was asleep. They said I had high blood pressure and I was at high risk of Type 2 diabetes and I needed to do something about it.

“She said I had the heart of an 84-year-old man. I said tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

Robert was referred to the Just Beat It programme, run by Durham County Council and Durham’s two Clinical Commissioning Groups. The scheme is one of seven demonstrator sites for the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme which will be rolled out nationally this year.

It includes six months of education and exercise: one education and two exercise classes a week plus 18 months follow-up and support.

This involves high intensity exercise and interval training for weight loss in a local sports hall and educational classroom sessions in a college classroom. The education focuses on five-a-day, behaviour change and dealing with stress.

“It’s press ups and star jumps and things like that. Of course it was difficult at first but I lost 2 stone in six months down to 79kg from 90 plus. Self-confidence I have no problem with but self-motivation is non-existent!

“I learnt a lot from the education classes and I’ve cut out beer, Chinese and other take-aways but I don’t really miss it. I was living a sedentary life watching TV all night on my shifts and eating takeaway. But if someone offered me a pint now I’d say no. In myself I feel a lot better and you can tell just looking at me.”

Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity and tends to be diagnosed in older people. It can cause serious long-term health problems but can be avoided through a change of lifestyle, healthy eating and exercise.

Around 50,000 people in the Durham area are estimated to be at high risk or very high risk of developing diabetes and could benefit from the scheme; across the 72 GP practices in Durham 115,000 are eligible for the health check this year which is carried out by community teams and GPs.

“You’ve got to want to do it,” said Robert. “What makes it is when there are a few of you in the group and you say if you will I will because it keeps you motivated. I’ve managed to avoid Type 2 diabetes so far and I’d recommend the programme without a doubt.”

Kayleigh Eckersley-Morris, a Health Improvement Practitioner from County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust who worked with Robert, said: “It’s great when we see the change in people like Robert when they embrace the course and really implement the changes. It really is life-changing and can stop people getting Type 2 diabetes and the potentially devastating consequences which include amputation and blindness.”

One comment

  1. Tim Sanders says:

    We should start to explicitly include dementia as one of the potential “devastating consequences” of Type 2 diabetes, with evidence that it leads to increased risk of both Alzheimers and vascular types of dementia.

    I can’t think of any one thing we could do to prevent dementia, than prevent Type 2 diabetes, and there seems to be a real opportunity to link our dementia work with the emerging NDPP.

    The only concern I’d have, is tailoring the prevention messages carefully to avoid people with dementia being blamed for the condition.