Learn and Live

Apr. 24, 2017

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An eye-opening program for residents who are at risk to develop diabetes

Yvonne Hawkins didn’t feel sick, but she figured she would go ahead and take the health screening.

A flyer at her workplace, Eastman Chemical Company, urged employees to get tested at the Greater Kingsport Family YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program.

She went with her husband, and each took a blood glucose test. Hers showed numbers right in the range of pre-diabetes.

“I was shocked,” she remembers.

She signed up for the program right then and there.

The Y uses a CDC-approved curriculum that helps people like Hawkins change their health.

Participants meet in small groups led by a trained coach, who guides them in making small changes to lose weight and get their blood glucose numbers down.

The goal is to:

  • Lose 7% of body weight and
  • Work up to 150 minutes of activity a week.

“We work on one thing at a time and build on each,” says Healthy Living Program Director Tiphanie Bigham.

“The people who enroll in the program have to find the way it will work for them. If they know that they won’t give up eating Pop-Tarts for breakfast every morning, then they need to know how to balance that with other food choices and physical activity.”

Act now

The program meets a huge need.

  • About 45% of Sullivan County residents are pre-diabetic, but most don’t know they are at risk.
  • If they continue the path they are on, up to 30% of Sullivan County residents will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

Prevention is possible at the pre-diabetes stage.

Once someone develops type 2 diabetes though, there is no cure.

“One of the things we do is help people understand the importance of acting now so that they can prevent type 2 diabetes,” says Bigham.

“People come in expecting to fail. We offer constant support and we see the mindset change as they see that we are not giving them an exercise plan or a diet to follow.

“We are giving them the tools to make real lifestyle changes.”

The Greenbelt is a 10-mile, paved stretch along scenic Reedy Creek.

Hawkins, 56, is making the program work for her. 

  • She checks the menu online before she goes out to eat so she knows what to order.
  • She exercises five days a week.
  • In good weather she and her husband might take a walk on the Greenbelt or ride bikes around the neighborhood.
  • They both have fitness trackers and enjoy competing to reach 10,000 steps a day.

“I feel great now. I am able to keep up with my grandkids when we play together,” she says, triumphantly.

“In fact, I can tire them out.”