Had I known how serious the risk of heart attack was, I’d have done things differently
TV personality Christopher Biggins, 70, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2010. He’s now fronting a campaign to raise awareness H E IS something of a national treasure, winning I’m A Celebrity in 2007, and now TV star Christopher Biggins has just celebrated a landmark birthday – turning 70.
He is bursting with energy as he has shed more than a stone after being told he has type 2 diabetes.
He says: “Seventy is the new 40. I walk 5-6 kilometres a day. I’m not scared of death. Exercising is the great secret. I feel better than ever.”
This bodes well for fans of the evergreen panto favourite, who this season is Widow Twankey in Aladdin in Bradford.
Here Christopher, who is fronting a campaign to warn about the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people with type 2 diabetes, talks about dealing with his diagnosis. Before your diagnosis, did you understand the seriousness of type 2 diabetes? NO and it was a long time after being diagnosed that I found out having type 2 diabetes increased my risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Had I known how serious the risk was, I’d have done things differently.
That’s why this campaign is so important, it’s giving people the right information so that they know what they can do to lower their risk. How do you feel about your own risk of cardiovascular disease? KNOWING that I’m twice as likely to have a stroke or a heart attack because I have type 2 diabetes is sobering. I know I want to make changes. I didn’t even know what my targets were for blood pressure, cholesterol and HbA1c [blood glucose (sugar) levels], which I realised during this campaign.
It’s shocking isn’t it? But I have to be honest to help others. Now that you know more, what action will you take to reduce your risk? EVERYDAY things. In a restaurant, you eat bread before the meal. I’m going to stop that. And I’m going to look at the sugar I’m having.
I don’t have a lot of sugar but there’s sugar in everything, of course. I always ensure I take my medication, that’s definitely one thing I do well.
I’m always busy so I keep active that way, especially when I’m doing pantomime. I’m also going to make sure I know exactly what my targets should be and work hard to meet them! I have tests twice a year with my healthcare team, but they can’t move in with you, you have to want to do it yourself. What is the one thing you want others to know about living with type 2 diabetes? I WANT them to know that it’s never too soon to make changes! I wish I’d realised that when I was first diagnosed instead of now, as I turn 70.
But it’s also important to not think you’re too old either. How important do you think it is for people living with type 2 diabetes to have someone in the public eye raising awareness about the issues they face? TO hear a familiar voice, it hits home, I think. So, I think that that’s what personalities or celebrities can do. They can convey that message to people and if they see a result in them, hopefully they will think, “If I do the same thing, I can get what they’ve got.” You’re about to star in Aladdin, what do you love most about pantomime? I’VE done pantomime for over 40 years and I absolutely love it. It’s exhilarating to go out to an audience that are there to enjoy you and the show. I also love that pantomime is accessible. It’s a breeding ground for audiences, if they’ve enjoyed it, they’ll see what else is on or come back the following year. You’ve been on screen and on stage for over 50 years, what’s your secret? I THINK the secret, without a doubt, is my enjoyment. I think if you enjoy what you do, it comes over to the audience. After 54 years in the business, I still love it and I’ve been very, very lucky.
When I look at my CV I think, my god, the things I’ve done. What are you most proud of? YOU may be surprised by this, but I have to say and I always say, ‘I’m a Celeb’. When you’re in there, you have no idea how you’re being perceived. To win that as a 60-yearold gay man and to find the love and affection of the whole country behind me, was extraordinary.
FOR more information on the Don’t miss a beat in the type 2 diabetes campaign – visit novonordisk.co.uk/dontmissabeat
Christopher Biggins, above, captured the nation’s hearts on I’m a Celebrity, left, in 2007
Christopher with his partner Neil Sinclair