Casco Bay YMCA offering diabetes prevention program

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FREEPORT — The Casco Bay YMCA is one of a growing number of Maine branches to begin offering a diabetes prevention program.

The year-long program will begin on Wednesday, March 28.

Consisting of 25, hour-long sessions, participants will meet with a trained Lifestyle Coach in a small classroom setting at the YMCA at 14 Old South Freeport Road to learn about healthier eating, physical activity, stress reduction, and other behavioral changes that can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 86 million Americans age 20 and older have prediabetes, but only 10 percent know they have it.  The condition develops when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to diagnose someone with type 2 diabetes.

Without weight loss and moderate physical activity, 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

That rate is even higher in Maine. The American Diabetes Associations estimates over 37 percent of Maine’s adult population has higher than normal blood glucose levels.

YMCA of Southern Maine Chief Membership and Program Officer, Anne-Marie Brown, said research has shown programs like the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program have helped reduce the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent overall and by 71 percent in people over 60.

Of over 200 YMCAs in the country to offer such programs are those in Boothbay Harbor, Bath, Damariscotta and Brunswick.

In order to qualify for the program, participants must be at least 18 years old, determined “overweight” by a body mass index equal to or greater than 25, and be diagnosed with prediabetes via blood work, a previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes, or by a qualifying risk score – which asks participants to answer seven questions that will confirm whether they’re at risk for prediabetes or diabetes.

However, participants don’t need to be members of the YMCA to register. The program costs $429, which could be reduced based on family income, and includes a 10-month family YMCA membership.

“We want to make sure that this is a very accessible program,” Brown said. “We know that making a lifestyle change often takes the whole family’s support.”

Two primary goals of the first six months of the program are a 7 percent body weight reduction and increasing physical activity by 150 minutes per week. Participants will first meet each Wednesday from 6-7 p.m., but meetings will become less frequent throughout the year.

“We don’t even touch on physical activity until six months,” Brown said. “They’re working up to that goal and then the second half of the program is sustaining it.”

The YMCA’s goal is to eventually roll out the program to all YMCA of Southern Maine branches – Biddeford, New Gloucester, and Portland – each with a different start date.

“Ideally, someone wouldn’t have to wait a full year before they’re able to get involved,” Brown said.

The program has room for 12 participants. To register, email or call Strategic Initiatives Director Nicole Hart.

“This is a big step forward for someone in that contemplative state,” Brown said. “They know they might need a change, but they’re not quite ready to make it yet … It’s one of those diseases that you actually can prevent. We can truly have an impact on shaping people’s future in a really positive way.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

YMCA of Southern Maine Chief Membership and Program Officer, Anne-Marie Brown, said she is excited to see the Casco Bay YMCA offer a diabetes prevention program to reduce participants’ risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The year-long program will begin on March 28.

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