More than 10 percent of U.S. adults have Type 2 diabetes – an insidious disease that can result in heart and blood vessel disease and nerve, kidney, and eye damage, potentially leading to amputation, blindness, or even death. As the pandemic has shown, those with diabetes are also more predisposed to suffering serious consequences from Covid-19.
Perhaps, as concerning, another 38 percent of American adults – more than one in three – have prediabetes, and most don’t know they have it. Prediabetes is often a precursor to diabetes.
So, with November being National Diabetes Month, what can you do to manage your diabetes or, if you have prediabetes, avoid getting the disease?
According to Claudio Villarroel, associate director of wellness programs at Open Door Family Medical Center, the worst choice is to do nothing. “Whether it’s to prevent getting diabetes or, should you have it, learning how to better manage and control the disease, it’s all about following a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “Changing your diet, getting more exercise, learning how to reduce your stress, and sleeping better can all make a huge difference.”
As a means to this, Open Door offers its patients the National Diabetes Prevention Program, as well as diabetes and chronic disease self-management programs. All programs are free, evidence-based, and are taught by certified lifestyle coaches.
National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP)
Offered both in-person at its Port Chester and Ossining centers and, since the pandemic, virtually, this CDC-recognized program works with adults who have high body-mass indexes (BMIs) and elevated A1Cs – the test measuring blood sugar levels, and other risk factors including sedentary lifestyle, family history, and others. Patients spend an entire year learning to make healthy lifestyle choices that will have an impact on their nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle in general.
This includes modifying eating habits, exercising, reducing their stress levels, and getting more sleep. Data show the effectiveness of the program. According to the CDC, participants with prediabetes who take part in this CDC-recognized lifestyle program reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58% (71% for people 60 years and older).
The program, offered in both English and Spanish, also helps patients learn how to set goals and overcome barriers.
Diabetes Self-Management (DSMP)
Open Door offers the program, also taught by bilingual instructors, to patients once a week for six weeks. It focuses on the symptoms of diabetes, fatigue and pain, taking medication, action planning and dealing with emotions, in addition to proper exercise, healthy eating, and stress and sleep management. Participants include both those who have recently been diagnosed and those who have had diabetes for years.
“We give them the tools they need to handle their condition,” said Leanna D’Agostino Gissen, senior wellness coordinator, certified lifestyle coach, and group exercise instructor. The class, she said, gives patients a safe place to be open about their condition with peer group support, and an opportunity to learn.
“Some emotions surrounding diabetes can be difficult to manage and the class provides a forum for people to express themselves,” she said. “Diabetes can be a silent condition and family members may not understand that their love one is sick. A patient may share in class about how a family member or parent had a foot amputated or even died and how they are afraid of going down the same path. Participants also receive practical information, like when they should test their blood sugar, the best time of day to exercise, or where they can get certain resources.”
Chronic Disease Self-Management (CDSMP)
This program is very similar to the DSMP, but it is expanded as it covers the management of any chronic physical or mental health condition. It is also offered once a week for six weeks in both English and Spanish, and held virtually and in-person. Many of the patients suffer from more than one condition. Additional topics discussed focus on fatigue and pain, appropriate exercise for maintaining and improving strength and endurance, preventing falls, better breathing techniques, and learning to work more effectively with health care providers.
Other Wellness Programs at Open Door
Through its Healthy RX program, eligible patients in the Port Chester and Ossining programs receive bags of fresh produce twice per month, as well as nutrition education materials and healthy eating recipes to improve their health outcomes.
“In addition to these educational programs, patients have access to free group exercise classes, in person in Ossining and Port Chester, as well as virtually. We aren’t just encouraging our patients to increase their physical activity but giving them access to a fun way to do so,” said D’Agostino Gissen.
Added Villarroel, “People can learn to manage their diabetes effectively or, if they have prediabetes, learn to prevent it. But it won’t happen without making changes in their lives. These programs have been shown to make a difference.”