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Reduce the Risk with Washington Hospital System’s Diabetes Prevention Program
By Nancy Kennedy

Pre-diabetes is a condition in which one’s blood glucose level is higher than normal, but not yet in the diabetic range. Being pre-diabetic raises the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, but it doesn’t mean that this is inevitable.  The best news is that there are plenty of strategies that can prevent or delay the development of Type 2 diabetes – and anyone can do them.

Washington Hospital System’s Diabetes Education and Management Program has launched an initiative to help people identify their risk for Type 2 diabetes and reduce it. Developed by the CDC, the Diabetes Prevention Program consists of a series of classes held over the course of a year. To qualify for the free program, you must be 18 or over and have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 24 or higher, with a score of 9 or higher on the CDC Prediabetes screening test, or a history of gestational diabetes. For the first six months, participants attend 16 sessions, one each week, and then monthly classes after that.

Dana Stainbrook, RN, MSN, is a Certified Diabetes Educator who manages the program and teaches many of the classes. She says that the CDC conducted a major research study which demonstrated that, among adults at high risk, moderate weight loss and exercise can make a big difference in diabetes prevention. In the study, moderate weight loss was defined as 5-7% of body weight; thus, a person who weighs 200 pounds would need to lose 10-14 pounds, which is not nearly as daunting as one might imagine. In regard to exercise, the CDC study found that 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, was sufficient, and that could mean walking, biking, swimming or other activities. “Most of our participants have stayed with the program and have lost weight,” Stainbrook says. “We had some people who lost 12-14%; the average was 5%. Even a modest weight loss makes a big difference by reducing your insulin resistance, in which your body doesn’t manufacture or use insulin properly.”

At each class, the 18-20 participants get weighed and take part in a discussion of the evening’s topic, which may range from cooking techniques to health topics. One of the many benefits of the program is the friendships that have formed, so that peer support has become an integral part of it. Participants are given a food scale, pedometer, calorie counter and recipes.

So who is at risk? One of the primary risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes is obesity, which can leads to insulin resistance. If you have a parent or a sibling with diabetes, your risk is elevated, and if you had a baby who weighed nine pounds or more, you are at risk. Persons who are African-American, American Indian, Hispanic American, American Asian or Polynesian are at higher risk, as are those who have had chemotherapy or an organ transplant. Heart health matters too. A blood pressure of 140/90 or higher puts you at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, as does abnormal cholesterol levels. If your “good” cholesterol (HDL) is at or below 35, and your triglycerides are 250 or higher, your risk is increased.

Pre-diabetes and insulin resistance have no symptoms, so seeing your primary care provider for regular check-ups, including monitoring of blood glucose and lipids, is essential. Dana Stainbrook recommends that those who are pre-diabetic discuss their individual need for monitoring glucose levels with their PCP, but says it should be checked at least annually.

“Being told that you have diabetes is very tough, and if you are at risk, you should do everything you can to lower your risk,” Stainbrook says. “People who attend the Diabetes Prevention Program get all the information and tools they need to lower their risk.  Our program is a great way to improve your health and stay healthy. Diabetes is a serious disease that can have terrible complications, including renal failure, blindness, heart disease and limb amputation when blood glucose is poorly managed.”

CDC Prediabetes Screening Test
IF YOUR SCORE IS 3 TO 8 POINTS:  This means your risk is probably low for having prediabetes now.
IF YOUR SCORE IS 9 OR MORE POINTS:  This means your risk is high for having prediabetes now. Please make an appointment with your health care provider soon

The Diabetes Education and Management Program at WHS offers a range of services that are designed to improve health and quality of life for persons with diabetes and their families. Every patient receives a customized management plan and patient education from the programs Diabetes Educators. For more information, visit the web site, www.whs.org.

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