Tahmoor resident featured on ABC science program about diabetes

Four locals have helped shine a light on Macarthur’s diabetes epidemic with their appearance on an ABC health and science program last week.

Catalyst, which aired on Tuesday, September 4, followed nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan’s mission to help stem people’s risk of developing type two diabetes.

She along with doctors and experts created personalised programs to help four Wollondilly residents who were on the brink of developing the chronic illness.

The television show tested residents for the disease at a screening clinic at Wollondilly Shire Hall in May.

Tahmoor resident Ian Hawkins attended the clinic and was one of the four pre-diabetic residents featured on the show.

“Before the screening clinic, my doctor told me I was possibly pre-diabetic,” he said.

“I ended up being the perfect specimen for the program after the nurses tested me at the clinic.

“I was asked to be involved in a 10-week program to reduce my risk of developing the illness.

“My body was measured and tested and I was told I needed to walk each day. I was also given a weights program and had to keep a food diary.”

Mr Hawkins said he ate “fairly well” but used to graze on food throughout the day, eat “naughty treats” and occasionally drink alcohol.

Diabetes Australia data shows more than 12,000 residents living in the Campbelltown local government area have type two diabetes. Camden has nearly 3400 people living with disease and Wollondilly has more than 2500.

Mr Hawkins said he learnt a lot of information about the illness during the filming of the show.

“We saw sumo wrestlers and learnt about their fat content,” he said. “I learnt I had worse fat content than them because I had visceral fat around my organs.

“We saw obesity and scientific nutritionist experts who were very professional.

“We were taken to a foot clinic to learn how diabetes can cause foot amputations and we also spoke to a sleep apnoea doctor.”

Mr Hawkins walked nearly 600 kilometres in 10 weeks. He did a half an hour brisk walk for three kilometres every day. Mr Hawkins exceeded his blood sugar goal. 

“When I had a blood test at the screening clinic, my blood sugar level was 9.8," he said. "Six is a normal level. My goal after the 10 weeks was 7.8 and I got down to 6.5.

“The doctors and I were impressed with my results.”

Mr Hawkins has now eased back on the walking and gets an average of 7500 steps each day.

“I am now more conscious of what goes into my mouth and I steer away from the bad lollies, cakes and biscuits,” he said.

“I increased my consumption of nuts, avocado, fish and chicken.

“The whole experience increased my awareness of what causes diabetes.”

Mr Hawkins said he had a family history of diabetes which contributed to his pre-diabetic condition. 

He encouraged others to get tested.

“I was surprised Wollondilly had such a high risk of diabetes,” he said.

“People should go get checked and find out what to do if they are pre-diabetic.”

If you have three of more of these criteria, then you should get tested by your doctor: family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, are a smoker, are overweight, are over 50 or need to exercise more. 

The program can be watched on ABC iView.