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Controlling Type 2 Diabetes through exercise and diet

by Editor
Monday 7th July 2014

Charity feature: Despite living with Type 2 diabetes for almost eight years, Paul Bussey from High Wycombe, is running the Bupa Great North Run this year on his 65th birthday to raise money for Diabetes UK

Just two days before Christmas in 2006, Paul was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes through a routine blood test by his GP. He was shocked by the diagnosis as he associated the condition with being overweight and unfit.

He had not been overweight since his teens, ate a good diet and had swum regularly for the previous three decades. In fact, although being overweight increases your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, it’s not the only factor at play; age, family history, ethnicity, and blood pressure all affect a person’s risk of developing the condition.

Paul decided to take control of his condition through diet and exercise alone, so in 2007 he took up running with some work colleagues and hasn’t looked back. He says his diabetes requires constant care but so far he has managed to control it without any medication and credits his love of exercise, as well as his healthy diet, for that success.

This year will be his fourth Bupa Great North Run in a row and he is aiming to get his time below two hours; last year he ran a very frustrating time of two hours and 29 seconds.

Despite living with Type 2 diabetes for almost eight years, Paul Bussey from High Wycombe, is running the Bupa Great North Run this year on his 65th birthday to raise money for Diabetes UKRun247 have spoken to Paul to find out a bit more about how he manages his training and racing and how it impacts on his well being:

Run247: Were you ever tempted to take up running before your diagnosis?

Paul Bussey (PB): I’ve always been active - taking part in lots of long walks with the family, scuba diving and sailing for over thirty years. I did some running when I was around 30 years old but my legs hurt a fair bit. I was concerned about wrecking my knees so I decided to swim instead and have been doing that regularly ever since.

My diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes made me look at my fitness levels more. Six years ago I decided to do a triathlon as I thought it was an endurance event I could manage, but I knew I would need to run 10km. So I took up running with friends from work who already ran for fun. This went well and I still run with them today.

Run247: Did your doctors (and family) support your choice to control the diabetes through diet and exercise alone?

PB: When I was first diagnosed my blood glucose levels were not too high (7.8mmols/l compared to a recommended level of less than 7.0mmols/l). I was neither overweight nor sedentary, so the diabetes clinic suggested I could try to control my condition by diet alone and see how it went.

My family fully supported me in this and we have modified our diet a bit to move to a low GI (glycaemic index) diet, which can help stabilize blood glucose levels as these foods are absorbed more slowly. Not all low GI foods are healthy though so it is still about making sensible choices.

The diet control combined with continuing exercise has worked well and my HBA1c blood glucose levels now averages between 6.0 - 6.5% (42-48mmols/mol).

Run247: Was there plenty of advice out there for you when you started your running?

PB: The main advice came from the small group of work colleagues I started regularly running with. We are still a self-support group – at present I am helping one of these colleagues, who had prostate cancer, get back into running.

The Diabetes UK website (www.diabetes.org.uk) has lots to offer in terms of support and advice around exercise and diet and I’d recommend it as a first port of call for those wanting to understand a bit more about diabetes, whether they have the condition or not.

Run247: Tell us about how you started – how often and how long did you run for and what was your first race?

PB: I started running weekly after work and a couple of times at home over the weekends. Over six months I worked up to a distance of 10km for my first triathlon in 2008. Four years ago we were up to over nine miles so I decided to run the Reading half marathon. Since then I’ve taken part in another five, the last being the Bupa Great North Run in 2013.

Run247: What are the most important lessons you learnt along the way?

You need to build up slowly, it took me six months to get to 10km. For me, I found its best to run with friends and it takes a long time to get better! Also you can’t go faster than your body and lungs will allow, which for me is about two hours for a half marathon.

Run247: What do you have to be careful of in your training and racing that runners without diabetes may not be aware of?

PB: I’ve been lucky that I can just go out and run, sometimes after just a cup of tea in the morning. I don’t use gels either.

However, everyone with diabetes can be effected differently by their condition, so anyone planning to start a new fitness activity should talk to their diabetes team first. Some people have to take an extra snack before, during or after exercise, adjust their insulin doses and check their blood glucose levels before and sometimes throughout exercise. When a person suffer from hypos (when his or her blood glucose levels fall too low) they should also take hypo remedies with them when running, such as glucose tablets.

Run247: Other than the health benefits, what do you get out of your running?

PB: I like the social side of running with friends and the buzz of finishing races and trying to improve my times.

Run247: You are running the Bupa Great North Run on your birthday with your wife and daughter. Did they run before, or are you their inspiration?

PB: I am the inspiration here! My daughter took up the triathlon because she came to watch me my first London triathlon in August 2008. My wife has taken up running especially so she can compete in this years’ Bupa Great North Run along with me and my daughter. We are raising money for Diabetes UK to help raise awareness of this condition that affects so many millions of people in the UK.

Run247: What are your fundraising page details?

PB: You can support the work of Diabetes UK and sponsor Team Bussey (Paul, his wife and his daughter) at: www.justgiving.com/teamBussey/

About Diabetes UK

Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly.

No one knows what causes Type 1 diabetes but it’s not linked to being overweight. People may get Type 2 diabetes because their family history, age, ethnic background or weight puts them at risk. Running, along with a healthy balanced diet, is beneficial for people with both type of diabetes. Exercise helps people more effectively manage their condition and minimise the complications that can arise from it.

If not managed well, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can lead to devastating complications.  Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable sight loss in people of working age in the UK and is a major cause of lower limb amputation, kidney failure and stroke. 

Diabetes UK helps to support the 3.8 million people living with the condition in the UK and raise awareness of this life-changing condition. As many as seven million people are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and if current trends continue, an estimated five million people will have diabetes by 2025. 

As such, the charity is committed to improving the early diagnosis of diabetes and the education offered to those with the condition. Diabetes UK is Bupa’s nominated charity for the Great Run series. Funds raised are being used to deliver a series of Healthy Lifestyle Roadshows around the UK to help find the 630,000 living with undiagnosed diabetes. In addition, in partnership with Bupa, Diabetes UK has created an innovative free online education programme called ‘Type 2 Diabetes and Me’, to help people with Type 2 diabetes, like Paul, to better understand and self-manage their condition.

For more information on these issues please visit www.diabetes.org.uk or www.type2diabetesandme.co.uk


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