Health Matters


    Everything was progressing much as expected. Working and settled into our new house. Had a bit of trouble putting my socks on but that was because I was a bit fat at 13½ stone, but apart from that, everything pretty much OK.

    Then I got called in for an 'old bugger's MOT' at the local surgery. One of these

    I was prodded, poked and interrogated by a very nice lady (I have to say that because she's my friend's daughter – but I like her anyway.)

    Weight – a bit over (blamed on what my friend calls, 'an over-active knife and fork'.)

    BMI – not quite in balance (I told her, by accident of birth, I'm a little too short – polite smile).

    Blood pressure – like an 18-year-old (dog! - she muttered under her breath).

    Do I smoke?  No, but did till 3 years ago.

    Do I drink? Less than I used to. (sideways look from the nice lady).

    Exercise? Yes, plenty.

    Any medication? No.

   Any other health problems? Apart from sore back and hips, that I have reported at least 6 times to various doctors, and still suffer from, no.

    Heart problems? No.

    Had a stroke? No.

    History of any other health problems? No

    Eyes? Not bad. Mild prescription glasses for reading and distance. Perfect vision at 4 feet (another polite smile)

    Chest / breathing problems? No.

    No trouble in the urinary area? No.

    The other end? No.

    Diet? Very good. My wife is careful about what we eat. Piles of veggies.

    I was having a pretty good day so far and was generally very pleasant company.

    Despite my kind words she took an alarming amount of blood, two medium-size vials.

    'Just routine,' she assured me, 'see you next year.'

    Three days later a letter arrived from my doctor. Please book a follow-up blood test one month from today, your blood sugars look a bit high. It may be a rogue test so we need to check them again.

   So what do you do? Worry of course. So I worried. Not for the whole month but from time to time my mind wandered back to my vials. The more I thought about it the more my fermented vials came to the fore.

    Second blood test.

    Three days later another letter from the surgery.

    Please book an appointment with your GP at your earliest convenience.

    Now very worried.

    My appointment, two days later, didn't last much longer than the time it takes you to read this paragraph....

    GPs diagnosis: your HbA1c is raised, you have excess glucose in your blood indicating that you have type 2 diabetes.

    He told me my initial reading was 51, it is now 50, both up in the diabetic range. But not by far.

    He ASKED (yes, asked) if I wanted to go on medication!

    I pointed out that if he didn't know, what chance did I have?!

    He 'strongly suggests' that I start taking Metformin and a Statin immediately.

    He handed over my prescription and told me to book an appointment with the medical practice's specialist diabetic nurse as soon as possible.


    (Metformin is the most widely prescribed drug to treat T2 diabetes and Statins are usually given to help lower cholesterol. More about drugs later.)

    Initial feeling – relief. It could have been worse. Anything blood-related I think of my Dad and leukaemia. Family history isn't great when it come to longevity, largely due to various cancers. So, at least the box of wine I'd bought the previous day shouldn't be wasted.

    Secondary feeling – a bit ratty.

   I felt I'd my consultation had been more wreck than Rolls Royce. It had come up short. Short of time, which I suppose is to be expected - too many patients, too few doctors. Short of explanations. Short of advice.

    I soon realize that I'm being unfair. My doctor has passed me on to an expert. A specialist nurse who will see me right.


    Let me be quite clear here. GPs are brilliant. They have an incredibly difficult job.

   Imagine all the people they see day after day after day. People coming in with an astonishing array of symptoms, often frightened. They have a few minutes to figure out the problem and either prescribe, advise, hand-hold or refer.

    It is an unbelievably pressured and responsible job.

    They also work within ever more suffocating budgetary constraints.

    They cannot be specialists in everything so refer patients on, where they think it necessary.

    Also they have to work within parameters, guided by government / nationally approved dictats.

    In the case of diabetes, some think that the guidelines are, well, misguided at times.

    I don't blame GPs for this. They, every time, do what they believe to be the best for us.

    In addition GPs are faced with us - internet medics, which must be a source of eternal frustration.

    (As we progress you'll perhaps understand some of the comments of this paragraph.)

     During my short drive home some questions surfaced.

    What on earth is an HbA1c test? What is diabetes? What do my blood-glucose readings mean? What is Metformin? Statins? Why take either of these medicines? What can I do?

    So I get home, tell my beloved she's living with a ticking bomb and retire to Google. Ticking bum, she laughs. 

    To be honest, I've been lucky with my health to date. The odd ache, like we all get.

    Worst thing is probably the teeth which, let's be frank, look a bit like an abandonned building site.

    I visited the dentist with real trepidation a couple of months ago – for the first time in 5 years.

  Nice lad, a really cool guy who looked like a punjabi rock star - a fit-looking guy with long curly hair, chatty and......er, a nice smile! Yes, decent gnashers!

    He hummed and ahhhed and ooohed. I was fearing the worst.

    'You have a good diet don't you?' he asked.

    'Yes I do, actually.'

   'I can tell. You haven't got much left in the way of recognizable teeth, but what you have are strong and healthy. I'll see you in six months.'

    See, that guy knew I looked after myself.

    Pity the doctor wasn't of the same opinion.

    Read on.......Next page. What have I actually got?