An Ounce of Prevention

Diabetes Prevention Program helps those with prediabetes

By Alison Stanton

After being diagnosed with prediabetes, Mary Nielson knew it was time to get serious about changing her diet and lifestyle.

“I had already been losing weight, but I had hit a spot where it was not going any further. My hemoglobin A1c level kept coming back high, so I knew I needed to do something,” says Mary, a Sun City West resident.

Prediabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. An A1c is a blood test that measures a person’s average blood glucose level.

After hearing about the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) class offered at the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing, Mary knew she had found what she was looking for.

JoAnn Milazzo and Marilyn Mikols, Sun City West residents each with a family history of diabetes, also signed up for the NDPP class, which began in January 2016.

Statistics show need for NDPP

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mary, JoAnn and Marilyn are not alone. The CDC notes that older adults run an increased risk for both diabetes and prediabetes, with data suggesting that half of older adults have the latter.

The CDC has also found that modest lifestyle improvements taught through the NDPP can decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by half.

Moderate weight loss is goal No. 1

Exercise physiologist, certified health coach and NDPP instructor Rhonda Zonoozi, says the goal is for participants to lose 5 to 7 percent of their initial body weight by the end of six months.

“The other main focus is to build up to 150 minutes of physical activity each week,” Rhonda says, adding that the NDPP provides participants with information on healthy eating, the importance of being active and behavior modifications to help achieve these goals.

Tangible tools and support

For Marilyn, learning how to keep a food diary was one of the most useful parts of the NDPP curriculum, which consists of 16 weeks of classes and seven monthly maintenance sessions.

“I learned how to make healthy food choices, she said. “For example, instead of having a doughnut for a snack, I now will have cheese, an apple or some walnuts.”

JoAnn also found that writing down everything she ate was immensely helpful.

“Tracy Garrett, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, would then give me suggestions and write comments on how I could improve, which were very helpful,” JoAnn says.

The weekly weigh-ins also helped JoAnn stay accountable. Additionally, she enjoyed the varied topics.

“I like the way each session focused on a particular topic, like tracking our activity or heart health or tips on eating out.”

For Mary, the group support and the “feeling that we are all in this together” were helpful. “We would share healthy recipes and ideas on how to overcome challenges.”

Results show success of NDPP

By the end of the first 16 weeks, Mary, Marilyn and JoAnn had each lost 20 pounds or more and they’ve kept it off. At last check, Mary’s A1c level was at 5.5 (below 5.7 is considered normal). Her progress prompted her doctor to say, “I wish I could get all my patients to do that.”

Marilyn’s doctor cut the dosage on her blood pressure medication in half.

All three women report having more energy, flexibility, and better sleep thanks to the program. For JoAnn, taking part in the NDPP strengthened her resolve.

“Because of this program, I have hope that I will beat this disease, and I am now hopeful that I will win this fight,” she says.

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