According to the CDC, an estimated 33.9% of U.S. adults aged 18 years or older (84.1 million people) had prediabetes in 2015, based on their fasting glucose or A1C level. Nearly half (48.3%) of adults aged 65 years or older had prediabetes. An estimated 30.3 million people of all ages—or 9.4% of the U.S. population—had diabetes in 2015. The East Shore YMCA works with groups of diagnosed prediabetic individuals to help improve their overall health through the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program.
One of these individuals, Eric R, told us about his experience with the program. “I decided to take part in the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program here at the East Shore Branch YMCA because I’m approaching middle age and have a family history of Type 2 Diabetes. It made sense to get this under control because I was extremely at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes. I figured I might as well take care of it now and not have to pay for it later.”
The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program participants meet in small group settings, for one hour, with a trained lifestyle coach to learn healthier eating habits, how to increase physical activity to 150 minutes per week and reduce body weight by 7 percent. “With the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, we encourage the group setting,” shared Megan, who serves as a lifestyle coach for the program. “It’s important I think because they can buddy up so they can hold each other accountable, be accountability partners. Eric came in, he did what he was supposed to do, he followed the curriculum. He exercised as much as he could.”
National Institutes of Health research has shown that programs, like the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, can reduce the number of new cases of Type 2 Diabetes by 58 percent overall and by 71 percent in people over 60. For Eric, the program was critical to his success. “Megan gives you the tips and tools and the resources as our lifestyle coach to cut out the fat grams, cut out the calories.”
Megan continued, “For a lot of people its portion control, so when they’re looking at their plate, and in today’s world plates are so huge, when they’re actually looking at it, they’re thinking ‘Oh I’m not eating that much, I’m having this healthy meal.’ They think they’re eating healthy but they’re just not realizing the actual portion.” In addition to reducing health risks, there are societal benefits to eliminating the onset of Type 2 Diabetes. In 2012 alone, $245 billion of our nation’s health care costs were attributed to the management of Type 2 Diabetes; and the average medical cost for a person with diabetes is $13,700 per year.
The East Shore YMCA provides the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program to the community at no cost to the participant. In fact, the participants are also granted a YMCA membership for the duration of the program at no cost to ensure that they can meet the program exercise goals. Removing financial barriers to participation has been key to the success of the participants. “Prevention programs are so important,” said Megan. “It’s great to offer them at the Y at no cost to these individuals because some people might not be able to afford it.”
And the payoff of the program is huge. Nationally, 94 percent of participants say they have reduced their portion size and 88 percent say they have increased their level of physical activity. Perhaps more surprising, 83 percent say they have improved their self-esteem, 84 percent say they have more energy and 91 percent even say they have improved their overall health. However, sometimes it’s best to hear from folks in their own words, and to Eric, success wasn’t measured in percentages. “I think I had to put four or five new holes in my belt. When I started to do that, I mean it doesn’t lie,” he said. “I can’t wear certain clothes, they’re too big. At our first weigh-in for the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, I weighed 282 pounds. Sitting here today, I’m at about 225 pounds.”
Helping our community recognize the risks of pre-diabetes and helping them to lead healthier lives is an important goal for the East Shore YMCA. As for Eric, he’s happy with his experience at the YMCA. “If I would sum up the program in one sentence, it would be: it works,” he said. “There’s no other way to say it.”
–Madeline Kelly, Digital Communications Coordinator