Diabetes has become a global problem affecting millions across the world, but closer to home two local residents living in the Pendle area have given their diabetes the boot.
World Diabetes Day which happens every year on the 14 November is the perfect opportunity to highlight how a few simple changes to your lifestyle, can save your life, or certainly increase your life expectancy.
Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, amputation, heart disease, kidney failure and early death, yet simple action can reduce the risk.
Yvonne Tyrer, 60, who is a full-time carer for her husband Graham, 66, was diagnosed with diabetes around nine years ago, but it was only when Yvonne became seriously ill with a kidney infection that she knew she needed to look after herself better.
Whilst Yvonne herself admits it wasn’t easy and she struggled at first taking three or four years to see any improvement in her blood sugar levels, her diabetes, whilst never cured, is now ‘in remission’.
By cutting out fizzy drinks high in sugar, particularly Coke and replacing it with alternatives such as Coke Zero and eating smaller portion sizes, Yvonne has lost two and a half stone in 12 months. In addition, Yvonne also belly-dances with a local club which she took up about 11 years ago to help her keep more active and have a bit of fun too.
She said: “I knew I was at higher risk of ill health if I developed diabetes because of my mum dying with pancreatic cancer a few years ago. So when I was told I had diabetes, diagnosed through a regular blood test as part of the NHS Health Check Programme, this was a big wake up call for me. Even still, I didn’t listen to what I was being told.
“As a carer all of my energy went on looking after my husband and I was ignoring what was happening with my own body. It’s only when I was admitted to hospital (with an unrelated kidney infection) that I started to take my health seriously.
“Fortunately I’m not a big chocolate eater or sugar eater but I did cut out my ‘full-fat’ Coke habit and replace it with a healthier version. I haven’t restricted myself to any foods, I now just eat smaller portions.
“What I would say to anyone in a similar situation to mine is to make one change at a time, and don’t do everything at once.”
Similarly, Roman Sekowski, 43, was only diagnosed with diabetes after taking up the free NHS health check even though Roman had a lot of the symptoms already including insomnia, frequent urination in the night, extreme tiredness, and extreme thirst with a very strange sensation on his tongue.
Roman had lived with these symptoms for around two years but put them down to stress of work. When he was diagnosed with diabetes, it all finally made sense and the very next day made the decision to do something about it. Within two months, Roman has lost over a stone and a half in weight and his blood sugar levels are now back to normal.
Roman explains how he achieved this and his top tips to anyone in the same situation: “I decided to make changes straight away. I did lots of research and found the Diabetes UK website particularly helpful. I watched what I ate, in particular my sugar intake. I bought monitors to measure my blood sugar levels because whilst I was prescribed medication I really didn’t want to take it. I also increased my exercise levels and cycled the few short miles to work rather than drive. I also found it extremely useful to just take a 10 minute walk each day.
“Before walking I tested my blood and again afterwards and there was a big difference in my sugar levels. I didn’t realise how much impact even a little exercise could have on blood sugar levels. I also tested my blood before and after food so I could monitor which foods were causing my sugar levels to increase and then cut them out.
“Although I haven’t followed any special diet, I was extremely restrictive about what I ate and drank in the first eight weeks. I completely eliminated sugar, and things such as sweets and biscuits. Twice a day I drank white mulberry tea; this is a tea supporting normal blood sugar levels.
“After that, I started slowly introducing rewards like a square of chocolate or a slice of pizza when I observed that I had low sugar results; it is no good punishing yourself. I now eat more green vegetables and include foods such as a small handful of nuts, eggs and wholemeal bread. I feel I have lots more control now and I listen to what my body needs. It is so tempting to go back to eating what I was before but I know I need to be careful.
“My sleep has improved which as a result has improved my family life because I’m not as tired now and I have the energy to be involved with my family rather than falling asleep as soon as I come home from work. Family support is so important. I would not have made this progress without the help of my wife Magdelene and the support of my two children.”
Dr Rahul Thakur, clinical lead for diabetes at NHS East Lancashire and NHS Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Groups, and both Yvonne and Roman’s GP, said: “Both Yvonne and Roman are proof of what self-care and taking control of your life and responsibility for one’s health can do.
“The changes that you can make can be quite simple – for example 10 minutes’ walk a day or swapping high sugar drinks for zero sugar drinks. It is just brilliant they have put their diabetes into remission without the need for medication and transforming their lives in the process.”
If you have any concerns and you think you may have diabetes, speak to your GP practice or visit the Diabetes UK website at www.diabetes.org.uk
The usual symptoms involve:
• Feeling really thirsty, very often for no reason;
• Very frequent passing of urine (i.e. peeing a lot) for no reason;
• Frequently feeling very tired with no energy;
• Unexplained weight loss.