Andrew Milburn before and after he lost 33kg which he did in 18 months
Dubai - Long working hours, binge eating and sedentary lifestyle can lead to diabetes
When Andrew Milburn moved from Zimbabwe 12 years ago looking for a better life and his ensuing retirement, it didn't take him long to adapt to the luxurious Dubai lifestyle.
Binge eating, driving to work instead of walking, sitting long hours and no exercise became a part of his new lifestyle until one day, a by-chance health check at his work place, showed he had turned diabetic - silently.
Within a short span of time of landing in Dubai, Andrew - a vegetarian by choice - weighed a whopping 123 kilos.
"Up to the age of 45, I had no health problems since I led an outdoor life in Africa," says the 65-year-old grandfather who works as an architect at Godwin Austen Johnson.
As his life changed in Dubai, so did his lifestyle.
"I had badly misjudged the Dubai lifestyle." With the increasing workload, competitiveness, indoor climate, stress and a lonely new beginning, food had become a reward. "Soon I started to realise that food was a kind of an addiction."
His children, who all live in different continents, could however, see a health problem emerging. "But I was not really able to deal with it," he said.
Then out of the blue one day nearly 18 months ago, Bupa Global organised a wellness day at Andrew's workplace which offered free blood screening and other tests.
"I remember they had sumptuous snacks laid out attractively and even then I was concentrating more on eating!" he chuckles.
The test results were out and they did not look good for Andrew.
He had a body mass index of 37, high blood pressure and blood glucose that was three times higher than the normal average.
Bupa Global immediately informed Boston Diabetes Clinic of the results and Dr Ghada Aoun, Medical Director and Specialist Endocrinologist, Boston Diabetes and Endocrine Centre sat down with Andrew for a serious chat.
"When I met Andrew, I could see the signs of him leading a typical lifestyle that included long working hours and binge eating," explains Dr Ghada.
He had all the signs - from high blood pressure to poorly controlled diabetes as well as high cholesterol levels. "I told him that he needed to take injections daily to control his blood sugar else complications such as heart failure, blindness and neuropathy could develop at any time."
This news came as a shock to Andrew since earlier checkups only showed that he was on the verge of developing type 2 diabetes. "The thought of taking two injections and at least six pills daily came as a shock to me."
"But I had to make the change for my children. I also thought that since I will retire in Zimbabwe, will I be able to afford the medicines?" questions Andrew.
"I needed this shock to shake me out of my complacency."
After the diagnosis, Andrew's children and his grandson visited and encouraged him to change his lifestyle.
Under Dr Ghada's firm guidance as well as diet and exercise sheets, Andrew lost 33 kilos in 18 months, almost three kilos per month. Since he started shopping healthier, his diet consisted mainly of fruits and vegetables and exercise has become part of his routine.
He has cut back on foods such as bread, cheese, milk, chocolates and biscuits and now eats smaller meals and more of salads.
"I still have my old clothes but they no longer fit me because they are too big now," he smiles.
Now weighing 90kg and with normal blood sugar levels, Andrew is a much healthier version of himself. He can now run up the stairs like before, wear his socks easily and gets complimented for his appearance. His family, who had been visiting recently, are pleasantly surprised but happy with the change.
"I still have to inject myself once daily to suppress my appetite but I am happy to continue with it."
According to Dr Ghada, most people do not know they are diabetic until too late. Diabetics can be genetic as well brought on by a poor lifestyle, she says.
Moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day and a healthy diet (low in fat) can help prevent the disorder. "People should get themselves screened especially if they are overweight or obese," advises Dr Ghada.