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New McKeesport Y program will help prediabetics lose weight, stay fit

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 4:41 a.m.

McKeesport YMCA will debut a 12-month program in October that will show people who may be prone to diabetes how lifestyle changes can benefit their health.

The Y of Greater Pittsburgh is offering the program through a grant from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The first of 16 weekly sessions will be Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the Y, 604 Evans St. Monthly gatherings thereafter will encourage participants in their progress.

The CDCP reports that 25.8 million people in the United States have diabetes and an estimated 79 million others older than 20 have prediabetes, with blood glucose levels higher than normal. Prediabetics are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, high blood pressure and blindness.

Prediabetes potentially can be reversed by eliminating risk factors and adopting a healthier lifestyle.

That's where the YMCA's prevention program comes into play, said Gretchen North, associate vice president of healthy living at the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh.

“This year-long initiative is for adults diagnosed with prediabetes,” North said. “We know there is a need to provide disease prevention in underserved areas.”

YMCA officials said that they expect to offer the program in 300 of their facilities across the country in the next five years.

“We are among the first 100 Ys to offer it,” North said.

Cost is $25 and includes a temporary YMCA membership and a manual. Class size is limited to 8-15 participnts.

North said the goal of the program is to help participants achieve a 5-7 percent weight loss, and to increase their physical activity to 150 minutes per week.

“This program is very effective if people work toward their goals,” North said. “People can reduce their risk of diabetes 58 percent in 16 weeks. And for adults 61 and older, the risk can drop to 71 percent.”

She said the weight-loss technique is safe.

“We never use the word diet or exercise,” she said. “A 5-7 percent weight loss is a modest amount.”

Some personal accountability is involved.

“Each person gets a manual and another chapter is added each week,” she said. “There are weekly weigh-ins and a lifestyle coach, but each person is encouraged to keep a personal journal, which keeps them accountable for what they are or aren't doing.”

People often are not aware they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, North said.

“There are not a lot of side effects with prediabetes,” she said. “Because you don't experience symptoms, people don't see a need for prevention. But there are risk factors.”

Those include gestational diabetes, a family history of diabetes, a body mass index of 25 or higher, age and a sedentary lifestyle.

There is a screening process to determine eligibility for the program, but North said applicants 65 and older are automatically eligible. A diagnosis of prediabetes through a blood test is required and those between the ages of 45 and 64 whose lifestyle is sedentary are eligible.

Information about the program is available at the diabetes prevention website ymcapgh.org, or by calling North at 412-227-3820. Applications will be accepted through Sept. 30.

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-664-9161 ext. 1916, or cfrazier@tribweb.com.

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