The Sonoma County YMCA recently started a diabetes prevention program to improve health throughout the county.
The program, which is funded by a federal Community Transformation grant given to the county and allocated to the YMCA for the diabetes program, runs over a course of 18 months. It is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Diabetes Prevention Program. YMCAs across the United States are starting the program as part of a national effort to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is characterized by high blood sugar with insulin resistance and deficiency. Type 2 diabetes is of particular concern in the U.S. as it accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults and is the seventh leading cause of death in the nation. Obesity is considered the primary cause of type 2 diabetes.
In the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health, 79 million Americans ages 20 and older have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be properly considered diabetes. Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, according to the CDC.
The YMCA program is based on the idea, as indicated by CDC and NIH studies, that by losing weight and increasing physical activity, the risk of people with prediabetes developing cases of type 2 diabetes is significantly lowered – with the development of diabetes either diverted or delayed.
The Sonoma County YMCA, based in Santa Rosa, received funding for the program in May, but did not start classes until October, said county YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program Coordinator Nicole Martinovich.
To qualify for the program, individuals must be over 18 and have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or greater, putting them under the medical classification of “overweight.” They must also be considered at high risk of developing prediabetes or have been diagnosed with prediabetes.
Over a 12-month period, program participants attend 16 classes where they begin tracking what they are eating and learn about healthy food alternatives and lifestyle modifications. At week five of the program, participants begin tracking exercise and are even offered a free three-month membership at the YMCA, giving them access to a range of exercise classes.
The last part of the program is focused more on psychological aspects of the disease, and addresses issues such as why people eat certain foods and how to deal with sticking to a meal plan in certain social situations. “We think food is so simple and you just eat it, but when you break it down, it is quite influential on our lives,” Martinovich said.
The two main goals of participants in the program are reducing their body weight by 7 percent, and increasing physical activity to 150 minutes a week. NIH research shows this small weight reduction and increase in physical activity can have marked impact on preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes, Martinovich notes.
“The nature of it is really about seeing what you are doing now and changing it to make it agreeable to your lifestyle,” Martinovich said, noting the program focuses on small changes that are reasonable in hopes that they will last for the remainder of each participant’s life. “It’s about seeing what is going on in each person’s life and seeing where (they) can make adjustments (they) can live with.”