Meet some of our Everyday Athletes
"It’s amazing how a simple health check makes such a difference"
Chris had significant undiagnosed health risks at just age 25. If it wasn't for Vitality, Chris may not have found out about his health condition until it was too late…
Watch his story to find out how Vitality were there for him.
“My health check saved my life”Fit and healthy Barry Proudfoot, 43, from Leatherhead, Surrey, didn’t know he had a life-threatening problem…until he booked a Vitality Healthcheck
My wife suggested booking a Vitality Healthcheck, but we only did it to get the points! We’re both very active and I do a lot of running, going out for an hour or more at the weekends and often doing a 30-minute stint on our running machine when I get home from work. I booked the check online, for the Thursday after our holiday. I’d never felt in better shape. Before going away I’d run my fastest 10k and had just spent two weeks in the sun relaxing, swimming and walking.
I went to my local LloydsPharmacy and had my BMI, blood sugar and cholesterol measured, plus a nicotine test to confirm I hadn’t been smoking. Then they measured my blood pressure: it was extraordinarily high – 210 over 105, not the normal 120/80.
The pharmacist came and took a reading on my other arm – also off the chart – while another reading on my first arm was the same. I was asked if I’d had headaches or dizzy spells, but I’ve always felt fit and well.
The manager advised me to go straight to my GP or A&E, as I was at very serious risk of having a stroke or heart attack. I drove immediately to my GP and was seen by a nurse straightaway. By the time it was taken again, it had climbed to 240 over 120. I was worried, but I still felt fine and was showing no symptoms at all.
I was given a prescription and told to take the medicine immediately – and when I went back to the GP on Monday, to my relief it had dropped to 180 over 105, still high, but better. A week later an ECG showed signs of stress on my heart caused by the high blood pressure, followed by an ultrasound that revealed signs of change to my right kidney, for the same reason.
How come? I was fit, relatively young, with no family history of high blood pressure. I seldom drink, and eat healthily, mostly chicken instead of red meat. Stress could play a part, as I work for an investment bank and had been busy on a large project for a year. I was also a best man at a friend’s wedding, and doing a reading had been playing on my mind. However, my GP said my high reading was still an anomaly.
Since the scare I’ve reduced my salt intake and cut out the caffeine, and bought a blood pressure monitor so I can take my own readings. After exercising more gently I am now back to my normal runs, which help lower my blood pressure. But it’s the tablets that are most effective at bringing down my blood pressure – and I wouldn’t be on those if I hadn’t gone for that healthcheck.
I urge every Vitality member to do the same. You hear of super-fit people having sudden heart attacks, but you never think, ‘that could be me’. Half an hour of your time in a Vitality Healthcheck could literally save your life – as I believe it saved mine.
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“Bowled over by my physio!”Ralph Lumby, 32, from Woking, received physio advice for his shoulder injury over the phone
The problem was with my shoulder. I play a lot of cricket, and as I’m a bowler I’ve been using my shoulder a lot since I was about 10 years old. It first came up three years ago when it started hurting to move my arm in the air or reach behind my back. I finally went to see a physio on the NHS when it hurt so badly that I couldn’t bowl any more. The diagnosis was a shoulder problem deep inside – not a simple muscle strain, but more like a repetitive stress injury.
My treatment included a ban on sport, plus massages and electrotherapy. Within about six weeks it was better but I didn’t test it for several months, using that time to do strengthening exercises. By the spring of 2013 it was okay and I started playing again, but towards the end of last year the problem resurfaced, rapidly getting so bad that it stopped me playing again. It was the same pain, the same restrictions – the difference this time was that I mentioned my VitalityHealth insurance to the GP, and was referred to request physio.
Vitality gave me the option to see a physio through their partner, IPRS Health, in person – but they also offered me a new approach, to be treated remotely over the phone. I went for the phone treatment and thought, ‘why not try it? I can switch to a physio in person if it doesn’t work.’ But I didn’t think speaking on the phone would work. I didn’t see how they could diagnose me or even understand the problem, and I certainly didn’t see how I could understand any exercises they might tell me to do.
I filled in a form on the Vitality website describing the injury in detail, but there weren’t any GP notes involved, it was just me. The physio I spoke to knew from them that I had this strain injury, and where it was, and got a lot more information from our first telephone interview. She also said I should just come in if I didn’t feel it was improving, which was reassuring straight away. After that first call we spoke every two weeks, for around six treatments.
She wanted me to let the inflammation die down, and then later to build up the muscles around the shoulder to prevent recurrence. I did both these things using exercises she gave me, and this was the key area of treatment I’d been nervous about: how could I be getting these right when she couldn’t see what I was doing? But I needn’t have worried because she named the exercises, then sent me an email package separately that contained links to videos of people performing them.
Suddenly it didn’t matter if they were complicated – I could see what she wanted me to do and do it correctly, and that was a major part of the success. Everyone heals at a different rate, but this way I could take things at my own pace. My fortnightly calls would cover how I’d got on and what level of pain I was now feeling, and after about six weeks I felt pain-free. That gave me a lot of confidence that she knew what she was talking about.
I learned a lot from her about my shoulder joint – how susceptible it was to injury and what strengthening exercises I could do to prevent repetition. We reached a point when she suggested playing badminton to test the shoulder without pushing it too hard, which was when we agreed to end our fortnightly calls.
It was good having the same physio every time, I got to know her a bit. And I was able to fix my shoulder without ever having to take time off work to have ‘live’ physio sessions somewhere. It’s so much easier just to talk on the phone! I’m playing cricket again but she gave me some excellent post-treatment advice and was careful to explain why it’s important to manage my shoulder injury in the future. It wasn’t just ‘job done, tick the box, next patient’.
“My tracker does it all for me!”Vitality member Natalie Carr, 35, from Bournemouth, started using a fitness tracker and went from Bronze status to Gold status in less than three months…
I never did exercise or sport before I had my daughters, but when my youngest, Molly, turned four I had to get in shape to keep up with them! As a Vitality member I could see all the benefits available from earning points, and that was added motivation to get fit.
The first thing I did was buy a fitness tracker, through the Vitality Member Zone. I followed a programme on the internet called Couch to 5k and started jogging with a friend twice a week. A 5k run spurred me on to invest in a Fitbit because it measured my heart rate and calorie intake, and tracked my sleep.
The Fitbit was easy to set up. You just download the app and log in, then all the info from it automatically links to your Vitality Member Zone. Every step I take, every run, every time my heart rate goes up or I burn calories by exercising... it’s all logged by my tracker and earning me Vitality points.
As well as getting fit I wanted to lose weight, so I joined Weight Watchers, also a Vitality partner, and every fortnight I got weighed I earned another 15 points. The annual Vitality Healthcheck also earns you loads of points, 200 alone for confirming I’m a non-smoker.
After three months I’d earned enough points to go from Bronze status to Gold, and the automatic rewards started coming in. Every Thursday I get a Starbucks drink. There are other benefits too, such as discounts off Eurostar tickets and Champneys breaks. If I go for the night, use all the facilities, eat and drink, it costs me about £60!
Best of all is how great I feel. I’ve dropped from a size 18 to a 12 and lost an amazing three stone in weight!
I’ve done numerous 5k and 10k races, run three half marathons and raised over £2,800 for charity. Plus all my Vitality Healthcheck results are in the green zone. I feel better than ever – and I couldn’t have even run for a bus before. But I wouldn’t have got this far without the rewards.
I’m very goal-oriented: I don’t just want to reach a target, I want to smash it, and wearing the tracker helped me do it because it registered every step of the way. It made it so easy.
I don’t do anything special now, I just wear my fitness tracker and that keeps me earning Vitality points to work towards Platinum status. It’s so rewarding!
“I quit smoking thanks to Allen Carr”Luke Godwin, 31, had smoked for all of his adult life, so he was surprised by how quickly Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking worked for him
Some of my friends told me that the Allen Carr quit-smoking method had worked for them, but I was sceptical about it. Then when I saw that my employer was running the course for free through Vitality, I thought it was worth giving a go.
I’d been smoking all my adult life, and was getting through around five cigarettes a day when I initially tried to give up. I used nicotine gum for a while, but it didn’t seem to work for me, especially at times of stress. This mental association started when I was at university in Plymouth. If I was going through a stressful period of exams, cigarettes always seemed to be the best thing for offering light relief.
The Allen Carr method wasn’t anything like I was expecting. Originally I thought I would just get given a free book, but I actually got to spend the first day with other people who were also giving up smoking. The course leader started by asking the group why we all smoked. She was really good at explaining to us why those reasons weren’t justified. We weren’t preached at – it was more a case of her highlighting the negatives of smoking and helping us to see things differently. For example, she helped me understand that smoking doesn’t relieve stress – it actually makes you more stressed.
We were allowed a few smoking breaks during the day, which was helpful. At the end of the day, we smoked our last ever cigarettes, and there were a lot of people inhaling as hard as they could to get every last drag!
Some of the things she said really hit home. The next day, it was my sister’s birthday and we went to a pub where everyone was sitting outside. Lots of people were smoking but I had absolutely no desire to have a cigarette. In fact, the thought of it made me feel nauseous and this has carried on ever since. If smoking does cross my mind, I see the need for nicotine as a monster in the pit of my stomach, then I think, ‘Don’t feed the monster!’ This is something I learned from the Allen Carr method.
It’s now six months on from the start of the course, my chest feels lighter and I don’t get out of breath. I go to the gym every other day, and this is much easier as I feel so much fitter. Another great thing is that I’ve really begun to appreciate how nice my clothes smell now that they don’t stink of cigarettes. In fact, I never realised washing powder smelt so nice!