Grantham Journal column: I’m immersed in cook books after routine visit to my doctor

Courtney Finn
Courtney Finn

I had a routine blood test a few weeks ago and found that I had type 2 diabetes and my cholesterol reading was a bit too high.

The doctor prescribed a statin tablet for the latter called Lipitor and a Metformin tablet for the diabetes. He said the gold standard was also to take a Ramipril tablet at bedtime. The leaflet for this one advised not to take it with diabetes, but Doc was quite sure he knew best. The leaflets for all these tablets read like a medical textbook and seem to threaten more side effects than they are supposed to help.

So from no pills to three per day and how to remember when to take them all?

My visits to the surgery nurses involved more checks and good advice. I have been bombarded with leaflets and they all advocate losing weight and eating considerably less carbohydrates. So for the last 10 weeks I have cut out bread, rice, pasta, biscuits, crisps and cakes and started eating more salads and more fish. The pork pies and sausage rolls merely taunt me in the shops but I have been amazed at losing 17lbs in weight in that time. My glycosylated haemoglobin has dropped like a stone, as has my ‘bad’ cholesterol level, so the pills and the diet seem to be working.

I have had diabetic eye screening at Grantham Hospital as untreated diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common causes of sight loss.

Some weeks earlier I had a cataract removed at the hospital and also had an abdominal aortic aneurysm screening which is a free NHS check for men aged over 65. If you have a large aneurysm that bursts causing internal bleeding around 85 out of 100 people die from this. Screening is important because there are usually no symptoms which mean you cannot tell if you have an aneurysm. I passed the screening test OK. You can understand that I have cause to be grateful for the facilities, care and expertise we have right on our doorstep. I am booked into two education sessions by a community diabetes nurse specialist in October and November at the community centre in Trent Road.

Having watched the Panorama TV programme last week all about the epidemic of type 2 diabetes, which seems to be invading young and old alike, I was shocked at what diabetes can cause. The amputations were shown quite graphically and one can only feel very sad for those suffering this life-changing surgery. Some people found it impossible to change their lifestyle and needed weight loss surgery at £5,000 to £6,000 a time. The bill for the NHS for type 2 diabetes is said to run into billions.

It is not surprising that our GPs and the NHS are making such an effort to counter type 2 diabetes, which seems to afflict millions of people. Being a foodie I am now immersed in cookery books for low carbohydrate meals and wondering whether I can really change my lifestyle and eating habits. When we go shopping I now walk into town and meet my wife at the supermarket and I have a pedometer to record my steps and daily mileage. From my Weight Watcher days (I still have the Gold Card but put about 50lbs back on since then) I keep a food diary and find the discipline of recording what I eat and their Weight Watchers points values as compulsive as eating too much. Having said this it did not prevent me putting on weight but I hope the daily charting will help me get the weight off.

The new recipes are sometimes too complicated with Gordon Ramsay length lists of ingredients that require a visit to Newark and Waitrose to buy and which you can never ever use up the amount you have to buy . . . but such is the new lifestyle and I will have to put up with less convenience, as they say. I did buy some sourdough rye bread as a treat but it was £1.75 for a small loaf and of course it is still packed with carbohydrates.

The NHS provides leaflets, lifestyle and dietary guidance on how you can look after yourself to lead a healthier life. All this and the treatment have a huge cost but we are very privileged to get it free of charge. The sad thing is that so many people are far too overweight and either do not know how to lose the weight or just will not make the effort.

I risk being sanctimonious about this but the smaller size clothes I kept for years in the hope of being the slimmer person I once was may be a bit out of fashion but they are coming out of mothballs and back into use!