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Can you actually prevent or delay Type 2 Diabetes? Yes, you can. Here's how!

November 30, 2020
Published in: Diabetes

Middle age couple pausing during a walk through the park

Type 2 Diabetes is a growing national health problem. Ninety percent of those diagnosed with Diabetes have Type 2 Diabetes.

Locally, in the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) for Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County, 16.5% of adults in the area reported having been diagnosed with Diabetes, compared to 10.5% in Virginia and 13.3% in the US. In Staunton and Waynesboro, the percentage is even higher than the area average: 20.2% in Staunton and 16.7% in Waynesboro. Even more concerning: The percentage of people with Diabetes reported in the local 2016 CHNA was 13.9%, so the prevalence increased by 2.6% in three years.

In addition to those who reported being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, another 7.4% of adults in the area have been diagnosed with Prediabetes. Prediabetes is the term that is used to describe people whose blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be called Diabetes. If people diagnosed with Prediabetes do not make any changes to their lifestyles, they will generally develop Diabetes.

So can anything done to prevent or delay developing Diabetes, especially for those who are Prediabetic? Yes—and the answer lies in a change to a healthier lifestyle. To help guide people to a healthier lifestyle, Augusta Health offers the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a CDC-recognized lifestyle change program.

Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP)

A Roadmap for Preventing or Delaying Type 2 Diabetes

"There are things that everyone needs to do to stay healthy, not just people with Diabetes," says Kathy Berger, RDN, Outpatient Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Program Coordinator. "These include avoiding smoking, getting regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, weight management and having regular check-ups with your doctor or healthcare provider. For those who have been diagnosed with Prediabetes or those with a higher risk for diabetes—which can be determined by taking a simple quiz—we provide the DPP class to encourage these healthy habits."

The goal of the DPP class is to change lifestyle in order to prevent or delay Type 2 Diabetes and the serious complications it can cause. The class focuses on increasing physical activity gradually to 150 minutes per week, a nominal weight loss of 5-10% (that's 10 to 20 pounds for a 200 pound person), developing healthy thought patterns to manage stress and developing healthy shopping, cooking and eating habits.

"The DPP class is a 12 month program, and I know that sounds like a lot," says Berger, "but we start by meeting weekly, then every other week, and for the last six months we meet just once a month. We do cover several important topics in a helpful way, but I think the real value of the weekly meetings early on is the opportunity to report progress and build personal relationships with the others who are taking the class. For those who are committed to the program, at least 90% have reached their weight goal and 80% reach their activity goal."

"It does take dedication," she adds, "but the result is that people feel better and healthier for the rest of their lives with the new lifestyle."

National statistics reveal that when following-up with those who complete the 12 month program, most have not developed Type 2 Diabetes five years later. They've successfully delayed or prevented Type 2 Diabetes for at least five years.

Could You Have Prediabetes? Take the risk test

A Star Student

David Lowman, Sr. is a retired salesman. He's managed AFib, a heart condition, for 17 years. He has a good relationship with his primary care doctor, Dr. Kerry Alexander, and keeps regular six-month appointments with Dr. Alexander that includes bloodwork. His HbA1c, a blood test that measures how much sugar has been sticking to red blood cells over a three-month period of time, was creeping higher. There were concerns that he could develop Type 2 Diabetes.

"I read about the DPP program in the newspaper, and decided to sign up," says Lowman. "We meet every Monday night for about 45 minutes, and because of COVID, we've been meeting by computer. It's a great program, and Kathy Berger is a wonderful coach. She leads the class as we report every week on our exercise and food challenges. There's not a strict focus on calories. It's a focus on getting some exercise and the types of food you eat."

"In your mind, you know what you should do to have a healthy life," he adds. "It's just really hard to do it. Kathy prompts you every week, verbalizing what you know in your head. That really helps you focus on it."

For exercise, Lowman started walking. He's had a treadmill for years, but is now putting it to regular use. He starts his day with breakfast, and then a walk on the treadmill for around 30 minutes. He can now walk more than a mile in those 30 minutes. By walking on the treadmill at least five days a week, he reaches his 150 minute per week activity goal.

He's also changed his diet, using information learned in class to make healthy choices and control portion size. "I don't cook, so I actually knew nothing about measurements and portion sizes and what one portion of a type of food actually looks like. I've learned to measure certain foods and we use a strategy that Kathy provided to help control portions at meals—use the smaller plate. A smaller plate means smaller portions and the plate still looks full."

Lowman reports he's also given up most snacks, but will "never" give up popcorn. "I love popcorn and I have it every day. Kathy said five cups a day, air-popped without butter, would be OK. I like to garden and restore cars, so each day about 4 pm, I come inside to have my four cups of popcorn and watch a movie. Then we have dinner. I try not to eat after dinner. That's just what works for me," he says.

And he's seen results. His HbA1c has dropped, and he's lost 17 pounds. He's able to maintain his weekly activity goal, and thinks the exercise has been key to his weight loss. "The weight loss is very motivating," Lowman adds. "Once you start seeing the weight come off, you're motivated to continue. I'm now at a place where if I don't take my daily walk, I just don't feel right. The whole day feels 'off'."

"I lost my father at age 62 and my mother at 58," he explains, "so that's always in the back of my mind. I'm 77 years old now and have eight grandchildren. I want to continue to be around my family and those grandchildren. That's why I do all of this. It's for them."

Upcoming Diabetes Education

For more information, including information about virtual opportunities, contact:

Kathy Berger, RDN
Outpatient Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Program Coordinator
Kb5240619 [at] augustahealth.com
(540) 941-2537