Guest blog: Claire from the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation (DRWF)
For many people, a type 2 diabetes diagnosis will come as a complete surprise as it can develop over a period of time without any obvious symptoms. However, this is not always the case and for diabetes community fundraiser Claire it was a wake-up call! Claire (57) had been working for UK charity Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation for five years and had learnt a lot about the condition, made some lifestyle changes, lost weight and joined a gym – however it did not prevent her developing some obvious symptoms in February 2017.
She noticed her eyesight had deteriorated, she was really thirsty all the time and going to the toilet a lot. She visited the optician who said there were noticeable changes in her right eye and that she should visit the GP as soon as possible as it was probably diabetes related.
Claire’s diagnosis followed an HbA1C blood test which gives the GP an overall picture of how the average blood sugar levels have been over a period of weeks/months. Her HbA1C was 58 (mmol/mol) and she was prescribed the drug Metformin. For people with diabetes this blood test is important as the higher the HbA1c, the greater the risk of developing diabetes-related complications. An HbA1c of 48mmol/mol or higher will usually result in a diagnosis of diabetes.
Initially Claire felt upset and distressed at the news as, given her job, she knew she could have done more to avoid Type 2 diabetes developing in the first place. Over the next few weeks she decided to take control of her diabetes as she wanted to stop taking Metformin and knew about the long term related complications that can occur. Complications such as: diabetes neuropathy which can lead to amputations, kidney failure and eyesight failure. Working for a diabetes charity, that offers wellness events to help people learn good diabetes self-management skills, meant she had the knowledge to help make the changes she needed.
Claire knew weight loss and increased exercise could make a huge difference. So she adopted a healthy eating plan and started a regular exercise programme with a personal trainer. The eating plan was based on lots of fresh vegetables, lean protein, good carbohydrates and limiting alcohol intake to no more than two units a day. The Eatwell guide, developed by the Department of Health, proved useful as it reminds us to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day: whole grain and higher fibre carbohydrates with less added fat, salt and sugar, more beans and pulses with at least two portions of fish per week including an oily fish and less red and processed meat.
Over the next few months Claire saw a dramatic change in her HbA1C, in May it had fallen to 41 (mmol/mol) and she had lost a stone in weight. By the end of June she had shed a further stone and her HbA1C was at 20 (mmol/mol) and the GP said she could stop taking the Metformin. Her eyesight returned to where it had been before diagnosis and she was no longer thirsty all the time.
Claire is thrilled with the results:
“I am delighted that I have been able to reverse my type 2 diabetes in a relatively short period of time. I feel fitter, healthier and have more energy in my day to day activities. I have had a fantastic support network through my family, friends and diabetes charity work colleagues which has made a real difference over the past six months. I am determined to lose more weight through exercise and healthy eating to ensure the changes I have made to my diabetes can be as permanent as possible. I am a grandmother to two beautiful girls and want to play an active part in their lives, being a fit and fabulous granny at 60 and beyond.”
Claire has only reversed her type 2 diabetes and will need to continue with her new healthy lifestyle and keep the weight off to maintain this. Over time her diabetes might reappear as it can be part of the ageing process, however Claire knows the longer she maintains her new regime the healthier she will be. The most important thing about living with diabetes is learning as much as possible about the condition as good self-management skills really help to make it easier to live with every day.
Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation (DRWF) is the charity Claire works for, it is a UK wide charity with its headquarters on Hayling Island in Hampshire. The charity has been working in the UK for nearly 20 years and is focused on providing diabetes education for people living with all forms of diabetes as well as funding research. Also this charity has the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation community on HealthUnlocked which is a great place to share information and ask questions. The DRWF website is also a source of excellent diabetes information and includes links to NHS Standard Accredited diabetes information leaflets written by healthcare professionals. There is also a monthly hard copy newsletter, the Diabetes Wellness News, available as part of a membership to the Diabetes Wellness Network. This is an informative publication with hints and tips about living with all forms of diabetes as well as regular diabetes research updates.
The charity also offers an education programme of Diabetes Wellness Events in three locations across the country, South, Midlands and North of the UK to allow as many people as possible to come along to learn more from diabetes specialists in a relaxed and friendly setting.
You can talk to other people with diabetes in the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation (DRWF) online community on HealthUnlocked.