Warren takes control of his Health

When Warren Elder, 51 from Limavady, first received a health check from local charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS) through his workplace, Limavady Jobs and Benefits Office last year, little did he know the check would alert him to the fact that he was at increased risk of heart illness in his future. Since then, the inspirational Limavady man has taken control of his health and changed his lifestyle, achieving dramatic results.

Well Checks, a comprehensive health check offered by NICHS for workplaces and communities, assess and check for cardiovascular risk factors such as atrial fibrillation, blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as looking at weight, body fat and lifestyle factors. These checks aim to empower people to make informed and manageable lifestyle changes.

Warren explains, “When I got my first health check, my blood pressure was high. I went to the doctors and had to go back three or four times to get it checked. I had to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours and was then told that I needed to go on blood pressure medication. Shortly after, me and my family went on holidays and my daughter announced she was getting married. That news, along with learning about my high blood pressure, motivated me and so I set a goal to lose a bit of weight for the wedding. As a result, since May last year, I’ve lost six stone nine pounds. And it all started through the health check that I had at work.”

Warren has made changes to both his diet and physical activity levels to achieve this. “I’ve always been a keen Walker but I had pains in my knees and always made excuses for not walking. I decided to ditch the excuses and I started walking more. Then, that turned into doing the couch to 5k, mixing some walking and jogging. I also started intermittent fasting. I was doing it all on my own at first and I lost quite a bit that way, but after a while I plateaued and was getting nowhere. Over November and December, I put some weight back on, and then in January I decided to stop making excuses and do something about it. I got in contact with a personal trainer and nutritionist and after 10 weeks with him, I’ve lost 45 pounds.”

“My fitness levels have really increased and now at the weekend, I can do a 12k jog when before I couldn't have walked any distance without being out of breath. I recently did my first Park Run, which I never could have envisaged before.”

Warren continues, “It was down to changing my habits - getting rid of the excuses and realising that every small step is a step to fitness. I would have been the kind of person who believed that a diet was about not eating so you lose weight, but that is a total myth. I'm actually now eating more than ever before, but of the right stuff.”

“The majority of my work is office based so you're sitting most of the day. I’ve now gotten into the routine where I walk to work and I walk home and get something healthy to eat at lunch time. It’s so important getting into the mindset that you need to get away from your desk for half an hour each day. For me, it was the change of running to the shop, grabbing a meal deal and coming back to eat at my desk. Be mindful of yourself as far as needing the break away from work. With NICHS coming into the workplace that helped me realise that regular breaks are needed.”

Warren reflects, “I recently had photographs taken and compared them to old photos and I couldn’t believe the change. I knew back then I was carrying extra weight but looking back and seeing I really was that size is a shock now. I always made excuses I thought, ‘I’ll do that sometime’, but sometime never came. Now I have finally made a change.”

Warren is also an advocate for looking after your mental wellbeing, and has been running his blog on Facebook called ‘The Man Behind the Mask’ for three and a half years which is published each week in the Northern Constitution. Warren says, “My goal was to encourage people to open up about their mental health, but while I was talking about it, I wasn't practicing what I was preaching. My poor physical health was leading to poor mental health. The more I have improved my diet and got active, the better my own mental health has been.”

Warren is speaking out to raise awareness of looking after your health and wellbeing in support of leading local charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS), which is a cause close to his heart. Warren says, “Before I would never have went to a session like the health check because I would have been self-conscious and thought I know what they’re going to say – my BMI is too high, I'm obese, that’s just the way it is. My health check with NICHS was very thorough and their staff were extremely professional and non-judgemental. You get a report via email with all the facts and figures about your check, so you can look back and compare your numbers and see what has changed and gone up or down. Last year my blood pressure and cholesterol figures were high and are now down in the normal range so I can see clearly the benefit my lifestyle changes have had on my health.”

“I certainly would recommend the charity to other people because it really gives you a good thorough check and it gives you a good insight into the condition of your body, including your cholesterol and your blood pressure. Nowadays it’s harder to see your doctors or GP and this to me was a great opportunity and having it available in work meant I made time to go along, when otherwise I would have always put my health on the backburner.”

“I think people need to be made aware that no matter what size, shape or form they’re in, the NICHS Health Checks are there to help them.”