HANCOCK - According to the American Diabetes Association, about 57 million Americans are considered to be "pre-diabetic."
While not diagnosed with full-blown diabetes, those with pre-diabetes have higher than normal blood glucose levels. Pre-diabetics are more likely to develop diabetes and may already be experiencing the adverse health effects of this serious condition.
There is some good news, however. Recent research has shown that lifestyle changes such as modest weight loss and regular exercise can prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes in up to 58 percent of the pre-diabetic population.
Based on this research, Portage Health recently developed a program designed to help pre-diabetic patients make lifestyle changes designed to slow or stop the progression of diabetes.
The Physiological Alteration through Clinical Exercise program follows 12 patients in two classes of six patients each, offering them supervised exercise activities, education and counseling with a registered dietitian. Following an initial 12-week period, participants graduate to a home exercise and diet routine that they will follow for the next 24 weeks. During that time, they maintain an exercise and diet log which is reviewed by the program staff.
Although potential candidates for the program are recommended by a patient's physician, participation is completely voluntary, explained Portage Health Cardiopulmonary Director Jim Spence.
"The success of this program, and the participants' individual success, is completely dependent upon their cooperation," he said. "This is not a diet program or an exercise program, it's a behavioral modification program. They have to be motivated from within. The objective of PACE is to help patients build the tools they need to change the behaviors that have put them at risk."
Funding for the PACE pilot program came from a Portage Health Foundation grant. Patient response has been enthusiastic, Spence said, with participants reporting weight loss, increased exercise capacity and the development of home exercise and diet programs.
"My blood pressure is down to normal, and exercise is a lot easier for me," said patient Rich Adams, one of the first six participants in the pilot PACE program. "I've never felt so good."
PACE participants meet twice a week at Portage Health for monitored group exercise, which begins with a stretch and leads into 45 minutes of activity. Vital signs are monitored before, during and after the workout by exercise physiologist Greg Scharf.
Participant Kathe Prince said she liked the fact that the exercise program was monitored.
"I'm hooked up to Greg the whole time," she said. "I feel safer knowing that if something happens to my blood pressure, he's right here."
Spence believes the pilot program has succeeded in its goals of teaching participants the health risks of their former lifestyle.
"The people in this program 'get it,' that continuing their lifestyle will shorten their life considerably," he said. "The proof of the program's overall success will be in seeing the participants use their knowledge to create a healthier lifestyle."
Suzanne Guttmann said the PACE program has changed her life.
"I have nothing but gold stars for this program," she said. "I have more energy, more stamina and I've learned a lot about diet and nutrition. I feel I've taken a huge step in warding off a condition that could have devastating effects on my health."
Those interested in becoming potential participants for the next round of PACE sessions are asked to call Portage Health Exercise Physiologist Greg Scharf at 483-1453.