By Octavia Chambers and Erin Widener and Chung Nim Ha
Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services 

Prediabetes is best controlled by lifestyle changes


May 1, 2017

Prediabetes is a surprisingly common condition among U.S. adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 86 million U.S. adults (more than one in three) have prediabetes, with only about 9 million even aware that they have it. Prediabetes not only increases a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but it can also have a significant impact on health care costs and overall well-being.

Prediabetes is not just a condition of national concern, it is also a growing concern here in Alaska. According to the American Diabetes Association, over 36 percent of adults in Alaska have prediabetes. Local agencies like the Anchorage Community YMCA have started to address this growing epidemic by offering lifestyle change programs to community members. Lifestyle change programs are a series of classes led by trained coaches that help participants adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles.

Based on a 2002 study by Knowler et al, lifestyle interventions were found to be more effective than medication alone at preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes.

The Anchorage Community YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program is led by a trained lifestyle coach in a classroom setting and is delivered over a 12-month period. The program starts with 16 weekly one-hour sessions, followed by three one-hour sessions every other week, then six monthly one-hour sessions— 25 sessions in total. The program uses a CDC-approved curriculum and is designed to provide a supportive environment for small groups of participants to learn how to eat healthier and increase their physical activity to reduce their risk of developing diabetes. Weekly sessions include discussions on physical activity, healthy eating strategies, stress management and motivation.

Anyone age 18 and older who has been diagnosed with prediabetes is welcome to enroll in the program. Those who are interested, but have not been told they have prediabetes by a health care provider, can take the YMCA’s Diabetes Risk Assessment at to see if they are eligible for the program. Because the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age, those over the age of 65 are automatically eligible to participate in the program.

Erin Widener, the current Diabetes Prevention Program Coordinator, started the Anchorage YMCA’s program in September 2014. She held her first class in January 2015 and has since had 35 participants go through the program. The participants range in age from their 30s to their 70s. To date, the program has an 80 percent completion rate, and the average weight loss for all participants during this time is 4.5 percent of their body weight. The current group of participants, which started classes in February, has lost an average of 7 percent in body weight thus far.

According to Widener, one common misconception many seniors have about the program is the idea that it is “too late for me to make changes in my lifestyle.” However, research by the National Institutes of Health found that programs like the YMCA’s DPP program can reduce the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes by 71 percent in adults over the age of 60.

The Anchorage Community YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program makes every effort to make the Through the generous donations of partners, financial assistance and scholarships may be available to those unable to afford the $429 program fee. A three-month payment plan is available, whether on a financial assistance plan (amount depending on monthly income) or choosing to pay in full ($143 a month for three months). You don’t have to be a member of the YMCA to enroll in the program, but an added benefit of the program is a free one-year membership to the YMCA worth over $700.

The next class starts September 2017. If you or someone you know has prediabetes and would like to learn more about the Anchorage Community YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, visit: or contact Erin Widener at (907) 563-3211 or

• For more information about the Anchorage Community YMCA, visit

• For more information about the National Diabetes Prevention Program, visit:

• For more information about prediabetes, visit

Octavia Chambers is a Public Health Advisor for the Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services.

Erin Widener is the Diabetes Prevention Program Coordinator for the Anchorage Community YMCA.

Chung Nim Ha, MPH is the Diabetes Prevention & Control Program Manager for the Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.


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