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Valley Points YMCA program focused on diabetes prevention

| Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
Joyce Hanz
Camey Mazanek (right), of East Vandergrift, has lost 20 pounds in four months following the diabetes prevention program offered by Valley Points YMCA. Working on a stability fitness ball, Mazanek and YMCA personal trainer and lifestyle coach Shannon Rozich demonstrate some exercises that build the core muscles.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, according the American Diabetes Association, killing more Americans than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

When Camey Mazanek, 62, of East Vandergrift heard from her doctor that she was at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, which occurs mostly in adulthood, she took action.

“My doctor said my sugar was high and that this was my wake up call,” Mazanek says.

When it comes to type 2 diabetes — the most common type — prevention is key.

Maintaining a healthy weight, healthy eating and physical activity are three ways to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

“I have several family members with diabetes and after retiring I had put on a little more weight,” says Mazanek, a former Kiski area school teacher. “I needed to do something, so I joined a diabetes prevention program.”

Many YMCA branches offer a yearlong Diabetes Prevention Program. The Valley Points YMCA, which has locations in Allegheny Township and New Kensington, offers a class at the Peoples Library in Lower Burrell.

Led by a trained lifestyle coach, participants must be at least 18 years old, have a BMI (body mass index) of 25 or higher, and be diagnosed with pre-diabetes.

The goal is for participants to reduce their weight by 7 percent, which translates to 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person, and to increase physical activity by 150 minutes per week.

Mazanek has shed more than 20 pounds in four months through the Valley Points YMCA program and “feels great,” she says. “I am not done either, since we are only half way through the program. My goals are to lose more and add more exercise in 2016.”

She credits daily food journaling for her success.

“My daily journal has me writing down what I eat, tracking fats, and I don't deny myself foods, but I am more aware of what I am eating,” Mazanek says.

Millions of Americans share Mazanek's health predicament.

In 2012, 86 million Americans age 20 and over — one out of three adults — had pre-diabetes, an increase from 79 million in 2010, according to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention.

“Type 2 diabetes is rising in epidemic proportions,” says Dr. Sachin Bahl, an endocrinologist with a Pittsburgh practice specializing in diabetes and metabolism. “This is largely due to a more sedentary lifestyle and changes in diet.

“There are studies that show type 2 diabetes can be prevented by losing about 10 percent of your body weight,” Bahl says. “If a person can intervene at this stage and instill lifestyle changes, then we can decrease the number of new type 2 diabetes cases.”

Pre-diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than normal — as in Mazanek's case — but not high enough for a type 2 diagnosis.

Shannon Rozich, personal trainer and coach at Valley Points YMCA, has led a group of six participants at the Peoples Library. The year-long program includes 16 weekly meetings, followed by eight monthly sessions.

“I am proud of the progress made,” Rozich says. “The majority of participants have already hit the 7 percent weight loss goal set for them.”

The program is closed for additional participants now, but if there is interest from 10 or more people, they will add another class. The fee is $100 and includes a YMCA membership for the duration of the program.

Most adults should not exceed 20 grams of fat per day, and journaling is an easy way to monitor one's intake.

Mazanek noshes on more salads these days, keeping baked chicken and veggies stocked in her fridge.

She has learned to limit her intake of cheese, order salads at restaurants with the dressing on the side, and monitor her consumption of saturated fats.

Mazanek was “very careful with the cookies too during this past holiday season,” she says and is learning more about nutrition from the course.

“This is about a lifestyle — not diet,” she says. “I enrolled in this program to not get diabetes.”

For more details, contact Melanie Garee at Valley Points YMCA at 724-845-1968 or go online at

Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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