Learn more about diabetes. That’s the advice of a Melbourne man who, until a year ago, was at high risk of developing Australia’s fastest growing chronic condition. Taking positive action may just have saved his life.
Aged in his early 60s, overweight, inactive and with a family history of type 2 diabetes, Paul Dousek was on the road to developing diabetes himself. But unlike so many other Aussie men and women, he made the tough decision to act on these risks and take steps to prevent type 2 diabetes.
It did, however, take some dedicated pestering from his wife and daughter and a phone call from Diabetes Australia to spur him into action. “Like all men, we think we’re invincible, we don’t think we have any problems. Because there was diabetes on my side of the family, my daughter and wife just didn’t want me to get out of control,” he said.
“I did the AusDrisk test online and, of course, I was at risk. Diabetes Australia – Vic rang me and asked if I would like to do a diabetes prevention course. That spurred me on, having someone from outside call me, as well as my own family convincing me”.
Mr Dousek is now eating more healthly and exercising more, greatly reducing his risk of developing type 2 diabetes. He is also very aware of how diabetes can affect a person’s life. As with many Australians, he didn’t realise people with diabetes were at greater risk of other severe health problems, including blindness, limb amputations, kidney disease and heart attack or stroke. “I didn’t realise initially, due to ignorance about diabetes, but once I learnt more about it – and I did, believe me – in the first couple of sessions it shocked me, and that reinforced how serious diabetes is,” he said. “The problem is that most people are not shocked. It’s a difficult thing, a bit like smoking and car accidents, how do you get through to them? The only way is to constantly put information front of them, tell them that yes, there is a problem, and hopefully people will actually react”.
Standing at 6ft 2ins tall, the retired Australia Post computer analyst weighed 121kg at his heaviest. He reached his goal weight of 104kg by implementing the changes advised during the course.
As with most of us, Paul said finding the motivation to lose weight was his biggest challenge, but having support and expert advice helped significantly.
“I got to my goal of 104kg over a period of nearly 12 months. I believe that doing it slowly is the only way you’re going to lose weight. The motivation is a tough area for me and you’ve got to keep it under control. I think most people, including myself, need help for that. I have put a bit of weight back on – about 4kg – but I am aware of it and I am trying to get rid of those extra kilos”.
He said training himself to eat smaller portions was difficult, but key to his success.
“The 20-minute rule works – before you go for seconds wait 20 minutes. I didn’t believe it but it does actually work. It’s hard, but it works. It takes 20 minutes for the brain to engage that you don’t need any more food,” he said.
Changing his lifestyle and escaping the high-risk type 2 diabetes category certainly wasn’t easy for Paul. But he knows that living with type 2 diabetes is harder, so he’s eager to stick to his healthy lifestyle in a bid to prevent the occurrence of the disease.
He gives this advice to others: “Educate yourself. Listen to someone who knows what they’re talking about. Until it affects them and their family, a lot of people think, ‘Oh well, it won’t happen to me’.”
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Diabetes: the facts
While type 1 diabetes affects people of any age, it usually occurs in children and young adults, and, unlike type 2 diabetes, it cannot be prevented.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, can be prevented. Known as the ‘lifestyle disease’, type 2 diabetes usually develops in adults over the age of 45, although it is increasingly developing at a younger age. It is much more common than type 1 diabetes, accounting for 85 to 90 per cent of all people with diabetes. It tends to run in families and it is not uncommon to have high cholesterol and high blood pressure as well. Adopting a healthy, active lifestyle is the most effective way of reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions you may be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes:
- Has anyone in your family been diagnosed with diabetes (type 1 or type 2)?
- Do you currently smoke cigarettes or any other tobacco products on a daily basis?
- On average, would you say you do at less than 2.5 hours of physical activity per week?
- Is your waist measurement above 90cm (if you’re female) or 100cm (if you’re male)?
To find out more and to order your free type 2 diabetes prevention kit, call 13 RISK (13 7475) or visit www.diabetesrisk.org.au
Article written and provided by Shannon Crane, Diabetes Australia – VIC