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Diabetes Awareness and Prevention

Sturdy Supports the Y’s Efforts

American Diabetes Month couldn’t come at a more appropriate time of year. November is the start of the holiday season, bringing more treats and bigger meals to the table. It’s also the start of colder weather, which discourages, to some degree, physical activity. In the face of these diet and exercise challenges, raising awareness of diabetes and ways to help prevent the disease can guide people to establishing or maintaining healthy lifestyles, long-term.

Diabetes Basics
Diabetes is an ever-growing disease that, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), affects nearly 26 million people in the United States. Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy. It’s a serious health condition that can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, high blood pressure, and blindness, especially if not managed or treated properly. Type 1 diabetes, previously called juvenile diabetes because it’s usually diagnosed before the age of 20, is a form of diabetes in which the body does not produce insulin. The most common form of diabetes, however, is type 2 diabetes. With type 2, the body either resists the effects of insulin or doesn’t produce enough to maintain normal glucose levels. But this type of diabetes can be preventable.

Preventing Diabetes
The ADA estimates that 79 million Americans have prediabetes—meaning their blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be determined diabetes—and are at-risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes, which is determined by a blood glucose test, often goes undiagnosed because it doesn’t have any clear symptoms. “But prediabetes does have risk factors, which include overweight/obesity, inactivity, being 45 or older, having a family history of diabetes, and having high blood pressure,” says Dr. Sharon Mullane, board certified Family Medicine Physician at Sturdy. “Knowing these risk factors and sharing family histories with your doctor is important. Prediabetics should make adjustments to modifiable factors by losing weight and increasing physical activity, which can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.” Research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has shown that people can lower their risk for type 2 diabetes by 58 percent, by means of:

• Losing seven percent of their body weight, through healthy eating and increased physical activity

• Exercising moderately (such as brisk walking) 150 minutes per week

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Diabetes Prevention Program at the Hockomock Area YMCA
These two measurable goals are incorporated in the Hockomock Area YMCA’s new Diabetes Prevention Program, which is working to help people in the community lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The 12-month program is led by a trained Lifestyle Coach in a small-group, classroom setting. Participants receive support and encouragement from both the coach and fellow classmates, to develop and follow personalized plans for improving and maintaining overall health and well-being. People who qualify for the program are adults 18 or older who are overweight (have a Body Mass Index equal or greater than 25) and who are at-risk for, or have been diagnosed with, prediabetes.

“It’s easy enough for anyone to put off the goals of eating better, exercising, and losing weight, even if it’s the ‘doctor’s orders’ to do so,” says Kimberly Cohen, Senior Director of Association Health Innovation at the Hockomock Area YMCA. “Physicians who recommend healthier lifestyles to patients once a year during their physicals, to help prevent diabetes, can now refer appropriate patients to the Y’s Diabetes Prevention Program, which reinforces this recommendation repeatedly through a year-long support system and provides extra motivation to help patients achieve and maintain healthier lifestyles.”

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Collaboration with Sturdy
According to Dr. Mullane, “The Y’s new program is an excellent resource in the community. It gives us [physicians] a next-step, long-term, lifestyle-changing prescription to help patients reverse their prediabetes and prevent type 2 diabetes. And we can receive regular updates from the Y on our patients’ weight-loss and physical activity progress, so we know how our patients are doing with their goals even before their next appointment.”

Preventing such a common disease as diabetes and its risk factors, like overweight/obesity, is more likely to be achieved when community resources, hospitals, physicians, and even family members and friends, work together. “In collaboration with institutions like Sturdy, whose primary care physicians refer appropriate patients to the Y’s Diabetes Prevention Program,” says Cohen, “we’re strengthening the fight against diabetes, right here in our community.”

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Prediabetes and Diabetes Resources
American Diabetes Month was established to raise awareness and help prevent diabetes. But diabetes awareness and prevention is an ongoing, year-round goal, especially for Sturdy and for the Hockomock Area YMCA.

Sturdy works to help at-risk patients reduce their risk for diabetes. In addition to referring appropriate patients to the Hockomock Area YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, Sturdy offers Nutritional Counseling, Diabetes Support Groups, and preventive care and treatment for prediabetics and diabetics through Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, and Endocrinology services.

For more information about diabetes and diabetes prevention, visit the ADA’s website at www.diabetes.org.

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