BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Statistics show almost 30 million people in the U.S. now have diabetes and the numbers are rising. One in three adults has prediabetes (blood sugar level higher than normal), yet only 11 percent know it. That's exactly why the YMCA now offers a diabetes prevention program.
Adults are going back to school - in a sense - to learn how to reduce their risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
"We talked a little bit last week about what some of the barriers were and some things that you guys were anxious about," coach Gwen Bowie told her group at the Paula G. Manship YMCA.
It's only their second meeting of the 12-month program. The participants are all considered high-risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and through the program they work toward two goals: losing sevent percent of their body weight (usually 10 – 15 pounds) and increasing physical activity by 150 minutes a week. The class meets once a week for the first four months.
"They're weighed in and we're tracking their weight for them, their food intake, and their activity minutes. It's really an intense part of the curriculum," said regional program director Kayne Daigle. "And then for the last eight months of the program they meet monthly."
It's the support system of the group setting that really keeps participants engaged and motivated.
"I think we all know what to do, but I needed to be accountable," one participant said.
"Our coaches are actually trained - that's a big part of the training - in how to facilitate discussion and really keep those folks motivated through motivational interviewing and those types of things," Daigle added.
In this class there are no specific diet or exercise plans, rather a set of tools to help participants take control of their health.
"Folks often think they're going to come in their tennis shoes and work out in class. It's not like that," Daigle said. "We really just are having the discussion around the barriers and the challenges that they face every day."
A national study followed high-risk patients for 15 years and found prevention treatments for diabetes work.
"Diet and exercise and the use of the drug Metformin were able to prevent the progression to diabetes to a very significant degree," said endocrinologist Dr. Mark Wiesen.
An estimated 79 million American adults are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Genetics play a role, but people who are overweight and sedentary are also at high risk. That's why the right choices are key.
"Lifestyle changes percentage-wise were twice as effective as medication alone in preventing progression to diabetes," Dr. Wiesen said.
Complications from diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, amputations, and heart disease.
YMCA's prevention class costs anywhere from $250 to $429 for the year. Some health care providers cover it as a benefit. The next available classes begin in January.