Essentia Health Offers Diabetes Prevention

Updated: 05/20/2014 10:42 PM
Created: 05/20/2014 3:30 PM

Diabetes is just one of the major health risks connected to the obesity epidemic.  Essentia Health is offering pre-diabetic Duluth-area residents a chance to prevent the deadly disease.

“The great thing about the program is that it is designed to help people sustain their weight loss through healthier eating and increased physical activity,” Norbert Knack, Community Health Assessment Diabetes Intervention Coordinator for Essentia Health said.  “As they strive toward the overall goal of preventing diabetes, they’re losing weight and improving their health at the same time.”

The program requires a serious commitment, a one-year period, where people work to establish healthy habits that will last a lifetime. 

Dale Seafolk is one of the nearly 79 million Americans who are pre-diabetic.  That means his blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but are not high enough yet to be diagnosed with diabetes. 

Studies show people with pre-diabetes can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by simply improving their diet and increasing their exercise.

Dale and his wife Jan joined the program in January 2014.  Jan has a family history of diabetes and encouraged Dale to join the program with her.  They needed a way to make healthy lifestyle changes stick. 

"I've constantly been trying to watch my weight and loose weight, but this has made a huge difference," Jan said.

The 24-session National Diabetes Prevention Program was created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Dale and Jan meet in groups with Knack once each week for 16 weeks, followed by eight monthly sessions. 

Diabetes prevention is the goal of the program.  Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of disease-related death in the U.S., according the Knack.

“Before you loose your life to the disease you suffer amputations, you go blind.  All of these kinds of horrendous things happen to you and it's way better to prevent it, than to deal with those issues," Knack said.

Both Dale and Jan say they’ve been able to change their lifestyles through the program.  They now exercise at least three times a week, thanks to a partnership with the YMCA. 

The couple has used each other for support, but say the group aspect of the program also helps them stick to their new healthy lifestyle.  Jan says they now have the tools to make the right choices when buying groceries, preparing food, eating out and at social events.

“We've learned to make better choices.  We don't use all that butter that we used to,” Jan said.

Dale says the plan is not a magic pill that will make pre-diabetes vanish, but if you make the commitment and work hard it really does work.

“I never thought I'd give up the foods that I gave up, but with the choices it was worth it," Dale said.

Both Dale and Jan have seen improvements since starting the program.  They both have lower sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol.  They have lost almost 50 pounds between the two of them.

“We both feel a lot better," Dale said.  "My doctor was amazed."

Essentia Health offers the research-based diabetes prevention program at no cost as a community service. The next round of the program starts Thursday, May 22.

You must be at least 18-years-old to participate and be at high risk for developing diabetes.

To learn more about the program, email inquiries to:  Interested individuals may also contact Norbert Knack at 218-786-4482

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