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Preventing diabetes: Are you at risk?

September 13, 2017


Preventing diabetes: Are you at risk?

One in three American adults has prediabetes: Their blood-sugar levels are borderline high, but not high enough to be considered full-blown type 2 diabetes.

Though prediabetes is a serious condition, most people who have it it don't know because they don't experience any symptoms. But that doesn't mean it isn't affecting their health. Prediabetes can lead to diabetes, which can cause serious complications, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and amputations.

People with prediabetes and diabetes have a problem with the hormone insulin: Either their cells have become resistant to insulin or their pancreas doesn't make enough of it. (In some patients, both conditions exist.) Insulin helps move glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into the cells, where it's needed for energy. When glucose can't be processed the way it should be, it stays in the bloodstream.

To prevent prediabetes from progressing to type 2 diabetes, it's crucial to keep blood-sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Exercise (30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week) and a healthy diet (low in fat and high in fiber) are key. Weight-loss also is important, and patients who smoke should quit.

Sound overwhelming? Changing long-term habits is a challenge, but not one that patients have to face alone. WellSpan Health offers a proven lifestyle-change program, Prevent T2, which was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help patients take control of their diabetes risk factors.

The program includes a CDC-approved curriculum to help you make healthy changes, meetings led by a trained lifestyle coach who keeps the program fun and engaging, and a support group so you can give and receive encouragement from others in the same situation.

If you have risk factors for prediabetes talk to your provider about them. If needed, he or she can order a screening test to see whether you have prediabetes, and then recommend a plan to help you manage it and keep the disease from progressing.

Are you at risk?

You may be at risk for prediabetes if you:

  • Are 45 years of age or older
  • Are overweight
  • Have a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Are physically active fewer than three times a week
  • Ever had gestational diabetes (pregnancy diabetes) or gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds

How PreventT2 can help

Learn firsthand about the PreventT2 program from participants

Elaine Weaver

The Prevent T2 program taught me how to make better choices by comparing labels and making substitutions. I also learned that even small changes can make a big difference. Now, instead of continuing down the wrong path if I have a bad day or two, I look at the positive and start again.

It wasn't just listening to someone talk giving you a lot of facts. Everyone was able to participate, and every class was a little different -- there were even a few field trips.

Luann Munson

I had no clue how critical movement and exercise was in helping to prevent diabetes. I used to think that for exercise to make a difference it had to last 30 minutes to an hour, but even a 10- or 15-minute walk is beneficial.

Our instructor made it a lot of fun. Beside the regular meetings, we had guest speakers and a field trip to the grocery store. She made a competition out of it to see who could come up with the healthiest meal for the least amount of money. Old habits are easy to fall back into, and being in this yearlong program gave me time to establish new habits.

Polly Fiegl

The program is about education and lifestyle changes. I learned that making positive choices in diet and exercise more consistently can result in successes. I am now more cognizant about increasing my protein and eating more whole foods in general, while trying to limit my carbohydrates and overall sugar intake. In addition, I've increased my exercise and improved my consistency. If I miss a day, I don't consider it a failure. I just get back at it.

This is a yearlong commitment, and our group of participants really became invested in each other. I believe that added to each person's success.