Thank god I caught it in time

14 March 2016

One of Martin Robinson’s earliest memories is being asked to roll cigarettes for his dad while on long journeys in the family car. Father-of-five Martin, whose youngest child Niamh is just four months old, explains the history of ill-health in his family which led him to get an NHS Health Check at the age of 44. “My dad died aged 53 from congenital heart disease. My mum had type two diabetes, as did her mum and dad, as well as my auntie. Both my parents were smokers and when I was growing up we all ate a very unhealthy diet. Sometimes my dad would wake me at 3am for a fry-up. I suppose at the time no one really realised what effect these types of bad habits can have on your life and health. But it caught up with them eventually.”

Martin’s unhealthy habits continued into adulthood and as a trained chef he would cook with plenty of butter, cream and salt. “In the back of my mind I knew it wasn’t good for me, or for my family, but it was just a habit that we’d all got into. We would be getting through a kilo of butter a week between me, my partner Nicci and my stepdaughter Elise. It was ridiculous.”

Then Martin watched an online film about NHS Health Checks, which compared them to getting a car serviced. “It just sort of made sense to me. I had been sent an invitation to get a check by my previous GP but I hadn’t got round to it. The next time I went to my surgery I asked about getting an NHS Health Check. Thank god I did.”

Martin had his check a few days later at his local surgery in Sturry, near Canterbury and, inevitably, the results weren’t good. “My blood pressure was 150 over 95 and my cholesterol was 6.5 – both well above what they should be. My body mass index of almost 35 put me in the obese category. My GP also took my blood sugar readings which showed I was pre-diabetic. She told me I was at medium to high risk of heart disease and type two diabetes.”

Martin’s doctor had a stark warning for him; act now or suffer the consequences of serious ill-health. Martin said: “She gave me three months to make changes to my lifestyle or she would put me on medication to get my blood pressure and cholesterol down. All I could think was; ‘thank god I’ve caught it in time, now I’ve got a chance to change things.’ I want to be here for my children. I have a baby daughter. I want to be her Daddy when she’s 10, 20 years old. I don’t want to be dead from a heart attack or spend the rest of my life on prescription drugs.”

Martin started to make small, manageable changes to his and Nicci’s diet. “It’s not rocket science but just common sense,” he said. “I cut down on the saturated fats, sugar and salt by swapping to things like lo-salt and rice bran oil for cooking, and putting sweetener in my coffee instead of sugar. I’m taking a 30 minute walk every day. It’s all stuff I knew and they’re not massive changes, we hardly notice them at all. I just needed a kick up the bum.”

Five weeks after his Health Check Martin had reduced his blood pressure to a healthy 118 over 80 and had lost more than half a stone. **

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