For green-fingered Dennis Rundle from Ashford, tending three allotments and taking lengthy walks with his dog seemed to be the perfect, active retirement. Feeling well and looking forward to his annual trip to Australia to visit his daughter, Dennis was ‘gobsmacked’ to discover that decades of eating at unusual times as a shift worker had caught up with him and he was at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Referred by his GP to his local Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, Dennis is now reaping the rewards of changing his lifestyle, avoiding long-term medication.
“Eating dinner at 1am isn’t really natural and I was guilty of grabbing quick, treat foods a lot of the time,” says Dennis, 66, who worked for more than 30 years at Heathrow Airport. “I was always a big eater and since retiring have picked up some new bad habits, like enjoying a beer every night. I wanted to prove to myself that I could lose weight and help myself out of this dangerous pre-diabetic state without resorting to medication.”
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in those at high risk, through improved quality of diet, through increase in physical activity, and through sustained weight loss.
Dennis has been attending Healthier You sessions at Ashford Community Centre since August 2019, delivered by health educator, Russell Feldhus-O’Connell. The 10-month lifestyle change programme provides guidance on eating healthily, managing weight and being more active. Dennis’s weight is reducing ‘slowly but surely’ (97.6kg down to 93.8kg) and his HbA1c blood sugar level has dropped significantly from almost 48, to 43.
“You can say what you think without judgement at the group, we can have a laugh and a joke too.” continues Dennis. “It isn’t sit-behind-a-desk teaching, Russell gives us practical tips and helped me realise that small changes can make a huge difference. He’s up, moving and walking around the room, getting his steps in and setting a good example. It’s inspiring.”
Dennis now eats smaller portions and has at least three nights without alcohol each week.
“Trading food has been the simplest thing to implement, swapping treats for better choices, knowing I can still have fish and chips if I trade it with a healthy meal the next day. My wife does it too and has been very supportive. Having a nightly beer or two had become a force of habit and I’m enjoying how much better I feel for cutting down. I’m using a simple app on my phone to check for hidden sugars in food and am thinking more about the types of fruit and vegetables we grow at the allotments; I’m going to have a crack at blueberries!”
There are 12.3 million people in the UK at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. It is one of the biggest healthcare challenges of current times.