About 30 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and an estimated 84 million more people are thought to be pre-diabetic, that is, in a condition that could lead to full-blown diabetes if health habits are not changed. “Those are alarming numbers, and the cost to human lives is very significant,” says Michele Sturt, a diabetes specialist with Internal Medicine of Northern Michigan (IMNM) in Petoskey.

Photo courtesy of McLaren Northern Michigan

But, of course, the good news is health habits can change, and changing the health habits of pre-diabetic individuals to steer away from the brink of diabetes is the purpose of a new program, called the National Diabetes Prevention Program, being offered at the IMNM. “To participate in the program, you don’t need a diagnosis,” explains Sturt. “But there are criteria, such as being overweight, having a family history of Type 2 diabetes, and not being physically active.”

In the program, participants agree to attend at least 16 support group meetings that meet every week for the first six months, then every other week for three months if participants choose to continue. The program offers education about key lifestyle changes and fosters support among group members for one another.

Participants also commit to making lifestyle changes and to keeping a daily journal of thoughts and ideas. Support group meetings are times to review challenges faced and successes achieved. Each meeting also involves a weigh in, since weight loss is an essential piece of avoiding diabetes. “The weigh-in is part of an accountability factor—being accountable to yourself and to the group,” Sturt says. The groups are kept small so bonds can form; about 10 people were in the autumn group. “The people we’ve seen so far are very committed. They want to make a difference in their lives,” Sturt says.

The education and behavioral change support focuses on a few key healthy lifestyle areas. “First is nutrition,” Sturt says. “We spend a lot of time discussing healthy, well balanced diet.” Other areas are exercise—encouraging at least a half-hour of activity five days a week sleeping well, and tips for destressing, like meditation.

“The trajectory of diabetes can be dramatically changed if people are aware of their risks and know how they can change,” Sturt says. “Many people don’t feel they have that much control over this, but they do.” To learn more or to join the program, call Internal Medicine of Northern Michigan at 231.487.2460.

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Photo(s) by Kelly Rewa