Health & Medicine

YMCA health advocates encourage diabetes prevention

Since he was diagnosed with pre-diabetes earlier this year, Bruce Wall of Lexington has lost eight pounds by changing the way he eats and embracing exercise. He is among the participants in the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program.
Since he was diagnosed with pre-diabetes earlier this year, Bruce Wall of Lexington has lost eight pounds by changing the way he eats and embracing exercise. He is among the participants in the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program. Herald-Leader

Bruce Wall, buzzing with the extra energy he generated by exercising, cannot understand why everyone who has had a pre-diabetic condition hasn't signed up for the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program.

He has lost eight pounds in seven weeks, changed the way he eats, and loves to exercise — a skill he shows off at the North Lexington Family YMCA.

Wall's workout tour of the individual exercise room includes: the hip abduction/adduction machine, the elliptical, the leg curl and the bike. He also participates in group exercise classes and walks his two dogs when at home.

The Diabetes Prevention Program has changed his life, said Wall, 65. He cut down on his beloved coffee after finding out it was a diuretic, and he is eating more oatmeal and less bacon and eggs. He credits Debbi Dean, director of wellness services for the YMCA of Central Kentucky, with keeping the need to eat more fruits and vegetables uppermost in his mind.

Although Wall was a trim-looking 199 pounds a few months ago, his doctor, Ralph Caldroney, told him after a high blood-sugar reading that Wall needed to make some changes. He promptly complied.

Dean wishes more people would do that. The YMCA offers frequent Diabetes Prevention Programs. Some participants will pay a nominal amount, while others can get scholarships courtesy of the Novo Nordisk company.

For those in Eastern Kentucky, Downs is working with a diabetes prevention class in Prestonsburg. Participants attend classes and learn about making small changes in their lives: losing a few pounds, starting to read nutrition labels and cutting the fat in their diets.

Dean fears that people hear the word diabetes associated with the class, but don't hear the word that follows: prevention. Some people who could avoid developing Type II diabetes either don't see the signs — elevated blood sugar levels, weight gain, inactivity, fat-laden diet — or ignore them.

Some, Dean said, are simply fatalistic about "the sugar," as diabetes is sometimes called.

"A lot of people think, 'My mama had diabetes, so I'm bound to get it.'"

Participants in the diabetes prevention program keep a food diary, establish a daily fat gram goal and learn how to exercise at least 150 minutes a week.

The program involves a re-thinking of previous routines: reading food labels, learning to park far from the store to gain some extra steps, even adding extra motion to housework tasks.

"People don't make time for themselves being healthy and being active," said Jason Monk, a YMCA health and aquatics director. "I tell people to look at it as a hobby, not a job or a task."

Taking on your health as a hobby means you spend some time and money establishing healthier habits and setting challenges for yourself, ensuring that you are motivated to have fun and celebrate "winning" activities such as weight loss and better medical test results.

"Everyone says, 'I don't have any time for exercise,'" Monk said. "We all need down time, but we should also fit in time to exercise."

Wall hopes that others realize that exercise gives back more energy than it takes. "It really picks me up for the day."

The program helps people realize that diabetes prevention takes some effort, "but diabetes is harder work," Wall added.

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