An estimated 30.3 million people have diabetes – 9.4 percent of the U.S. population – and an estimated 23.1 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes. An estimated 7.2 million adults, ages 18 years or older are undiagnosed.
But diabetes isn’t about statistics or numbers, it’s about people and what those who have it go through and what those who don’t can do to help avoid it. It’s about people in our town, in our neighborhood and in our house.
And when John Cady heard the word “diabetes” come out of his doctor’s mouth he took it seriously. Very seriously.
“I’m the first in my biological family to have any concern about diabetes,” says Cady, who has lived in Ann Arbor since 1989 and works for the University of Michigan. “So when I got a call from my doctor’s office one day saying I had a high A1C number and that we needed to get into a pre-diabetes program right away, I was really worried.”
When the A1C test is used to diagnose diabetes, an A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate occasions indicates you have diabetes. A result between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is considered prediabetes, which indicates a high risk of developing diabetes.
Cady, at 52, was at the “high risk of developing diabetes.” And when he heard the diagnosis he flashed back to his college days.
“I’d had a job in college with a boss who had unmanaged diabetes and he was extremely knowledgeable about art and architecture books, and the big designers in Chicago would come to our bookstore to get his advice,” Cady recalls. “But he had to have an assistant because he’d had most of his fingers amputated over the years due to his illness.
“So when I got my call, the memory of my old boss was on my mind.”
Cady says he was “very motivated” to avoid any kind of fate like that.
“I knew that well-managed diabetes rarely came to that end, but it still involves a lot of pain and extra care,” he said. “I did not want to even get close to it.”
The Chicago native, who works for a university IT group called Information & Technology Services doing user experience (UX) work for websites, signed up for a class that met once a week for an hour.
“The instructor/coach was wonderful and the atmosphere was very relaxed,” he said. “We learned about nutrition and exercise and how to develop good habits in an easy-to-achieve way that’s tailored to you. The whole approach was about how to make changes that don’t involve completely denying yourself or punishing yourself when you miss your goals for a day. That was what made it so great for me; it was really human.”
One thing he “balked at initially” was when he found out that the program was going to last a full year.
“I thought, ‘I’ll go for a few weeks, get the skills I need, and then do it on my own,’” he said. “But I’m so glad I stayed, because you always think you’ll keep up the habits, but without that weekly accountability, it’s so easy to slide back. In fact, even with the class, you slide back, but you have the coach and your classmates to help you. And after 16 weeks, the meetings become monthly.”
The evidence-based Diabetes Prevention Program is a yearlong program designed for people with prediabetes or at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, with the goal that participants will adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Diabetes Prevention Program workshops are led by trained lifestyle coaches during weekly one-hour group sessions and eight monthly sessions that follow. Participants learn how to eat healthy, add physical activity to their routine, manage stress, stay motivated, and solve problems that can get in the way of healthy changes.
Cady says the program’s group setting provides a supportive environment with people who are facing similar challenges and trying to make the same changes.
“No one ever punishes or disapproves of you if you don’t make your goals; the coach is just supportive and the group is there to share pains and wins and tips, and it does succeed very well in easing you into correcting a lifetime of bad habits,” he said.
And how did it work?
“I’ve lost 45 pounds, I’ve kept it off, and I feel much better,” he said. “My A1C numbers have gone down, and my doctor said that I’m the poster child for this program’s benefits. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone. I haven’t said this about anything else, but it’s been life-changing for me.”
For more information on the program, visit www.ReadySetPrevent.org or call 800-482-1455.