A year ago Buckinghamshire man Harry Matharu was at serious risk of developing Type 2 diabetes – his weight had teetered into the ‘obese’ category and his blood sugar levels were worryingly high.
Harry’s GP referred him to the Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP), where he has lost 3 stone 8lbs, dropped three clothes sizes and feels fitter and healthier than he has for years.
So much so, that he recently found himself addressing a conference of GPs to tell them the secrets of his success. And now, during Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Week (1-7 April), he wants to encourage others to make the lifestyle changes that will help prevent conditions like Type 2 diabetes.
Harry, 57, from High Wycombe, visited his GP surgery last year for a general check-up. What his GP found was alarming – particularly his diagnosis of being at very high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future. Harry said: “I was told that unless I change my lifestyle I’ll be on a lifetime of injections and pills.”
This was the kick Harry needed to take action. His GP referred him to the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, which Harry agreed to participate in. The programme is run by health services provider Ingeus on behalf of NHS England and encourages healthy changes in behaviour. Harry attended regular meetings in High Wycombe, where he and others learned more about healthy living and motivated each other to make the right lifestyle choices.
Harry finished the programme in January. As well as losing an incredible 10 inches from his waist, his lower blood sugar levels mean he is no longer deemed to be at risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Harry found the NHS DPP inspiring and informative: “It made me realise, you only have one chance to take care of your body.
“Most of us know what’s good and bad to eat, but I think the biggest problem is that we are in denial about it. It’s important to be honest with yourself and eat the right food. We wouldn’t put fuel that was detrimental into our cars, but we all eat things that are just not good for us.”
Harry stopped buying processed food and looked more closely at food labels, choosing healthier options. The impact on Harry’s health has been enormous: “When I started this, I looked my age. I think when you reach your 50s you say ‘it’s my age – I can’t really do anything about it.’ But the truth is, age is no restriction.”
Now, Harry swims regularly. Whereas once he stayed in the slow lane he now finds himself overtaking teenagers in the fast lane. He added that aches and pains he blamed on age vanished as he got fitter.
He said: “It makes sense. I lost 23 kg – that’s the equivalent weight of a six-year-old child. Imagine carrying that wherever you go. It’s no wonder I’ve got the extra energy – it’s a huge reduction in stress on your heart.
“I would recommend anybody to look at themselves and make a change – it’s like I’ve suddenly got my youth back.”
Type 2 diabetes usually appears in middle-aged or older people, although more frequently is being diagnosed in younger overweight people. It is a leading cause of preventable sight loss in people of working age and is a major contributor to kidney failure, heart attack, and stroke. Maintaining a healthy weight and active lifestyle can help prevent the condition.
Dr Kathy Hoffmann, GP and Diabetes Clinical Lead for NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme really makes a positive difference to people’s lives. Harry’s story is an inspiring example of that. It often takes only a few relatively minor changes to your lifestyle to prevent conditions like Type 2 diabetes.
“So, if you think you may be at risk of diabetes, please speak to your GP practice, or book an NHS Health Check if you are eligible. And, if you are invited to join the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, please take up the offer – it could make a huge difference to your health.”
Harry’s inspirational success has led him to be featured in NHSE national promotional materials for Diabetes Prevention Week.