Lorry driver Alan Easton responded to a letter to go into his GP surgery in Merthyr Tydfil for a health check.
What he discovered was life-changing.
The 57-year-old was told he had Type 2 diabetes and his ‘heart age’ was equivalent to someone aged 83, putting him at risk of disease.
“What bothered me most was if anything happened to me, what would happen to my wife, Brenda? We have been together for 35 years,” he said.
He was referred to his GP for treatment and he listened to the advice from healthcare support worker Matthew Tovey about diet and lifestyle.
After the initial check with the team at the Keir Hardie Health Park in Merthyr Tydfil , the assistant transport manager left for two weeks holiday in Spain, where he decided not to touch a drop of alcohol after learning the results.
Alan also changed his diet, dropping bags of crisps and biscuits for more healthy salads and chicken and cutting back on salt.
He has shed more than two stones, reducing his weight from almost 19st to under 17st in two and a half months with the help of his wife Brenda.
His diabetes is now under control by medication and diet.
His blood pressure is within the normal range, having previously placed him in the ‘high risk’ category, with a more than one in three chance of a heart attack or stroke within 10 years, if changes were not made.
“I was eating just one main meal a day, possibly late at night with a couple of bars of chocolate at bedtime watching TV.
“I was getting really bad headaches and feeling aches and pains but put it down to getting older,” said Alan.
“Now the headaches have gone and I feel so much better. I am eating regularly and more healthily, and we have a bike at work which I take for a ride for a bit of exercise.
“I would say to anyone who gets a letter to come in for a health check, just do it. I have been telling all the other drivers in work. If I had become ill, my livelihood could have been at stake.”
Wife Brenda said: “There is so much good information available in the leaflets Alan was given but unfortunately many people ignore the good advice until it is too late.”
At least 40 early deaths could be prevented if the loss of life from cardiovascular disease in the Cwm Taf University Health Board area were reduced to the Welsh average.
Patients aged 40-75 registered with GPs in Cwm Taf are being offered a health check which can identify ways of them avoiding preventable death from heart attack, diabetes and stroke.
Cwm Taf Public Health Consultant Sara Thomas said: “We know that on average people in the most deprived parts of Cwm Taf, such as the Valleys, have poorer health and are dying up to seven years earlier than those in more affluent areas.
“The aim of this programme is for people to live longer but also to live a healthier, better quality of life. We would encourage those invited to take up this offer of a free health check.”
The three-year Cardiovascular Risk Reduction programme deploys healthcare support workers in GP practices who are trained to do the health check using software which calculates their risk and their ‘heart age’.
Photo: Alan Easton, lorry driver, aged 57 from Merthyr Tydfil, has his Blood Pressure checked by healthcare support worker Matthew Tovey.