This story was originally published April 16 and updated with a new program start date April 24.
TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — Millions of people in the U.S., about one in three Americans, have prediabetes and ninety percent don’t know it.
A class offered locally is bringing attention to the condition and helping people make simple changes in their lifestyle to prevent type 2 diabetes. A yearlong National Diabetes Prevention Program hosted by the Tompkins County Health Department will begin in May. The class is also supported by the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County.
An estimated 84 million Americans have prediabetes, a health condition in which blood sugar levels are elevated, but not quite high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. There are several factors that contribute to type 2 diabetes, such as age and genetics that can’t be helped, but diet and activity level can be controlled.
Susan Dunlop, community health nurse for the Tompkins County Health Department, said the program is designed to help people get their blood sugar level back into the normal range.
“With very simple behavior changes, most people can get back into the normal range, whereas once you’re a type 2 diabetic, it’s very hard to reverse that,” Dunlop said.
Dunlop is also a trained lifestyle coach and will lead the program.
Making those changes may sound simple on paper, but having a supportive group and individually tailored goals has helped dozens of people who have gone through the program in Tompkins County make positive changes to their health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which leads the program, participants can lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58 percent, and 71 percent for people over the age of 60.
As part of the course, participants aim to lose around 5 to 7 percent of their body weight. For someone that is 200 pounds, that means about 10 to 14 pounds. It also gets people on track to exercise 150 minutes per week, or about 30 minutes per day five days a week.
“This is making changes that you can sustain, and they say with behavior change it takes about six months before that change sticks,” Dunlop said. “For many of us, we don’t even really know where to start so we get paralyzed. So that’s what this program can do.”
Participants meet once a week for 16 weeks, and after that once or twice a month for the rest of the year.
Everyone in the program sets their own goals, and the class covers one topic per week. One week, participants will learn how to read nutrition labels and make healthy choices when eating out and in another, they will discuss what factors contribute to overeating like stress.
In feedback given to the Tompkins County Health Department after the program, participants have said the class is supportive, helpful and positive.
People who feel they may be at risk for prediabetes should consult their doctor to see if they recommend a blood sugar test. The American Diabetes Association also has an online risk test.
The next Diabetes Prevention Program begins May 22. It will go from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. at the Tompkins County Health Department, 55 Brown Rd., Ithaca.
The cost to join the program is $260 for the year. Some employers and insurance carriers cover the cost of the program. Sliding scale pricing and scholarships are available. Anyone interested in joining the program or learning more can contact 607-274-6600. Information is also available at the TCHD website.