For Garden City resident Doris Hauswirth, diabetes hits close to home. Having close friends and relatives who have been impacted by the medical condition, Ms. Hauswirth was motivated to make a life change after she was diagnosed with prediabetes – a con- dition that occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes.
“When it’s in your family and you have had friends pass away from it, all of a sudden it becomes very important,” she said.
The “Diabeaters” (l.-r.) Patricia Ferro, Doris Hauswirth, Mario Toglia and Bob Civita.
Research shows that individuals with prediabetes often develop diabetes within 10 years unless lifestyle changes centered on weight loss and increased physical activity are undertaken. Fortunately for Ms. Hauswirth, there is a free program in her area designed specifically to provide the tools, education, encouragement and support to help her make lifestyle changes that could change that – The Diabetes Prevention Program at NYU Winthrop.
“Diabetes is largely preventable when lifestyle changes focused on healthy eating, weight loss and physical activity are made, and that is the mission our program,” said Lynne Chimon, MS, RD, CDN, BC-ADM, CDE, Director of The Diabetes Education Center at NYU Winthrop.
As the regional leader in diabetes and obesity care, NYU Winthrop is committed to providing education, skills and tools to individuals living with diabetes to help them successfully manage this chronic condition and combat its many associated complica- tions. Through the efforts of the Hospital’s Diabetes Education Center, which expanded its mission to include both diabetes education and prevention in 2006 thanks to a grant from the Edward R. Smith Mineola Lions Club, the first Diabetes Prevention Program in the New York metropolitan area was born.
“The Lions Club’s commitment to pre- venting diabetes has been instrumental in our success to offer diabetes prevention services to the community. Their generosity has enabled us to provide the educational tools, exercise equipment and incentives to attendees of the program,” said Virginia Peragallo-Dittko, RN, BC-ADM, CDE, FAADE, Executive Director of NYU Winthrop’s Diabetes and Obesity Institute. “Furthermore, the Hospital provides the financial support to staff the Diabetes Prevention Program with Certified Diabetes Educators and provide this life-changing program to individuals free of charge, knowing that so many in our community have been touched by prediabetes.”
Today, the Diabetes Prevention Program at NYU Winthrop, offered in day or evening sessions, continues to flourish, providing personalized support in a small group setting over the course of one year in order to help individuals with prediabetes achieve their lifestyle goals. The Diabetes Education Center staff include Nancy Rau, RD, CDE; Margaret Marinelli, RD, CDE; Sharon Blasi, RN, CDE; and Ms. Chimon.
Participants learn about the power of lifestyle changes to prevent diabetes; the facts about healthful eating and building an active lifestyle to facilitate weight loss; the challenges of changing habits and how to maintain long-term support for weight loss and lifestyle changes.
Physicians also recognize the great value of the program.
“So many of our total joint patients are affected by diabetes and prediabetes and the conditions can have devastating effects on patients who need orthopedic surgery,” said James Capozzi, MD, Chairman of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU Winthrop. “It is imperative that our patients have good diabetic control before, during and after surgery in order to avoid serious complications, and the Diabetes Prevention Program at NYU Winthrop helps us do just that.”
The reality of what a prediabetes diag- nosis could mean for his health down the road was enough to motivate 58-year-old Marcel Catafago to explore NYU Winthrop’s Diabetes Prevention Program upon his physician’s recommendation.
“I knew if I wasn’t careful, my health would be impacted dramatically,” said Mr. Catafago. “Although I am not a big believer in groups, I decided to sign up, and am so glad I did. As the weeks progressed, I saw just how important it was to have a support network and just how helpful the program really was.”
In addition to doing at least 150 minutes of brisk physical activity each week, another goal of the program is for participants to lose seven percent of their body weight (which lowers the risk of developing diabetes by more than 50 percent).
Mr. Catafago took these goals to heart, surpassing them in fact. He lost 75 pounds during the program. What’s more, exercise has become an important part of his daily regimen – he does an hour on the stationary bike each day and took up swimming in his spare time at a local college.
“I had to get a whole new wardrobe,” said Mr. Catafago, who commutes to New York City each day for work. “And now, instead of taking the elevator at Penn Station, I run up the stairs!”
It was exercise, ideas for healthy recipes, and a way to hold each other accountable that led several individuals in Ms. Hauswirth’s class to continue their support system even after their class ended. The group of indi- viduals, who cleverly named themselves the “Diabeaters,” get together regularly to exchange healthy recipes, enjoy a healthy meal out, go walking at the local mall, or even take a tour of a local grocery store to learn about nutritious food options.
“We have fun together and this is a way that we have been able to help each other stay focused and motivated,” said Ms. Hauswirth. “We may hit some bumps in the road, and when we do, we talk about it and make a plan to do better. In the end, the impor- tant thing is that we just keep going.”