“I am thankful that this was picked up early and I could do something now to reverse it. If I continued as normal, I was walking straight into diabetes and potentially something even more serious”
Pumped and ready for the challenge: Retired tyre-fitter Rae confidently reduces his risk
Rae Willoughby, 71, from Blackpool, was contacted by his GP after a regular blood cholesterol test. It showed a rise in his blood sugar level, with a HbA1c of 43. “I had no idea this was coming. I felt like I had been sleep-walking into this for years since retirement.” Rae’s GP made him aware of a free programme that could help him to reduce his risk.
Rae has always enjoyed being active and has completed multiple triathlons and running events. “It was a huge blow when I had to take early retirement because my knee needed replacing and I could no longer do my coaching job”. To avoid the risk of wearing out his new knee, the specialist advised Rae not to run on tarmac again. “I feel that being less active was a huge contributing factor to my increased risk of diabetes”.
Always up to a challenge due to his competitive nature, he was now facing one of the biggest challenges yet. “I now had a new challenge for myself - to fix this and stop it getting worse.” Rae got going with the Healthier You Diabetes Prevention programme in May 2020.
Since retiring, Rae usually spends a large chunk of the year abroad with his wife, Susan. “A big plus point was that these sessions are now run remotely.” They usually spend their winter in Tenerife and summer travelling around Europe in their motorhome. “Even if I was away, I could still access the session from wherever I was".
Rae joined the programme with Health Educator, Mike Pearce, despite already knowing quite a bit about health. “Since joining the programme I now have a much better understanding of the foods we should be consuming, how certain foods affect blood sugar and the importance of getting the balance right between what we put in our mouths and what we use up”.
Reflecting on his experience, Rae now feels better equipped to self-manage his risk. “I feel I have been given the tools to achieve my targets that I didn’t have before. Mike explained the process of diabetes and this helped me to understand how my previous actions had influenced my health”.
Now that he is half-way to achieving his weight loss target and controlling his cholesterol, this sport fanatic is certain that he can maintain this moving forwards. “I am confident I will achieve and maintain my reduced HbA1c score of 39. My competition with myself is now to maintain my sugar level at an acceptable score to continue reducing my risk - I am back in control now”.
Rae attended sessions once every three weeks and felt the group aspect of the programme was a real plus. “I really enjoyed the banter with the group and the educator. Having a group of people who are all in the same position to help you is a great support”.
He recalled how having a session every three weeks made the content digestible and well-paced.
“The breakdown of the programme content, combined with support every 3 weeks, allowed time for me to make changes and not feel rushed”.
As a diagnosed pre-diabetic, Rae decided to make the right changes to improve his lifestyle. “I cannot carry on living like this. I am thankful that this was picked up early and I could do something now to reverse it. If I continued as normal, I was walking straight into diabetes and potentially something even more serious”.
Rae strongly encourages others with increased risk to follow in his footsteps. For anyone thinking of joining the programme, Rae says, “SIGN UP! Get on it ASAP you will not regret it. Don’t miss this chance”. He encourages anyone who is worried about their health to get checked out or apply online. “If anyone tells me now that they want to improve their health or lose weight, I would tell them to sign up to the diabetes prevention programme”.
Rae is now looking forward to getting back in his motor home with his wife, but this time he will be swapping his regular cake and coffee for something a little healthier.