After a regular routine blood test for other long-term health conditions, Sharon Sherratt, 57, was shocked to hear that she could now be at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes with an HBA1C reading of 42, “This was never on my radar and with all my other health conditions, it was the last thing I needed”.
Sharon, from Burnley, recalls feeling a range of emotions when she found out. However, her initial feelings of disappointment and anger soon turned to a determination- “I soon realised that although I can’t change my other health conditions, diabetes was one I wanted to take control of. Even though there is a history of diabetes in the family, it doesn’t mean I am going to let this happen to me.”
The Healthier You programme aims to support those at high risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes to make healthy lifestyle changes to prevent or delay the onset of the disease.
Before lockdown, theatre-goer Sharon had a busy job and lifestyle that kept her active day-to-day. Once diagnosed as pre-diabetic, her initial thoughts were that her own actions had caused this and been impacted by lockdown- “Now was not the time to blame myself or the situation, it was time to take back responsibility and accountability for my own health. The programme gave me the tools I needed.”
Once referred, Sharon, who was shielding due to Covid-19, was initially concerned about how the sessions would take place. She was apprehensive to discover that the sessions were available remotely via Zoom or a free phone number. However, from the very first session, Sharon’s worries were quickly forgotten with how simple it was to access and how at ease her educator, Mike Pearce, made her feel. “I found the virtual sessions to be accessible, flexible with times and rescheduling, and enjoyed the no travel time involved.”
Her biggest takeaway from attending the sessions is a sense of empowerment that she has never experienced with her other health conditions- “Unlike other conditions which I can’t control, being at risk of Type 2 is something I can affect the outcome of”.
She realised how little she understood despite the family history of diabetes. “I was totally oblivious to the content of sugar in drinks”. Making substitutions means that Sharon does not have to give up the food she enjoys but rather learn how to balance portion sizes instead. “Everything I have learned I am confident I can maintain”.
Activity has always been a challenge due to Sharon’s health conditions and not helped by lockdown, but she has chosen to focus on walking in the local park as the safest option and invested in some good cold-weather gear and a pedometer. “No matter what the weather I am going to go out. I don’t believe that everyone has to do 10k steps to improve their health and fitness”. Instead, she focused on finding a realistic goal of 6000 steps every day which worked for her.
Sharon has particularly enjoyed the support from the group and listening to each other’s stories, both positives, and challenges. “I have all the tools I need in the future to manage this whilst managing other health conditions which will make it harder at times”.
A repeat blood test during the programme showed Sharon’s HbA1c to be in the normal range. However, she still saw the value in continuing the sessions- “I remember feeling like I beat it but wanted to continue to maximise the learning to add to my tool kit”.
Sharon has lost around half a stone during the programme. “I am over the moon that I can now fit back into some old clothes I’ve not fit in for years”.
Sharon shared advice for anyone thinking about joining the programme; “Give it a go, what have you got to lose (apart from weight), if I can do it with all my other health problems, anyone can! We owe it to ourselves to stay as healthy as possible now more than ever, especially with the new increased risk from Covid-19”.
You can do the same too – if you are interested to learn more, visit www.stopdiabetes.co.uk.