Leslie Shallcross

Leslie Shallcross

I used to wear more fashionable shoes to work. Now, it’s sneakers so that I can get up and walk a few minutes each hour. In good weather, I take a couple minutes to go around the building, or I do laps in the hall when there is smoke or rain.

People in my building may be wondering about me; but, at this point my health is important enough to endure a few sideways glances. Dressier shoes are parked under the desk for occasions requiring a more formal look.

With this modest change in my activity during the past month, I have more energy and feel less stressed at the end of the day. These improvements would be reason to maintain this lifestyle change but there is an additional motive — preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes. I have prediabetes, and I am getting serious about practicing what I preach. 

Prediabetes is a condition of having higher than normal blood sugar levels but not high enough to fit the diagnosis of diabetes. It is estimated that one out of every three Americans over the age of 20 years has prediabetes. As many as 84 million! Prediabetes raises the risks for diabetes, heart disease and stroke. We still don’t know what causes diabetes; however, there are a number of things that tip the risk in the wrong direction:

• Being overweight.

• Age of 45 years or older.

• Close relatives with type 2 diabetes.

• Physical activity fewer than three times a week.

• A history of gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds.

This list is likely to make you grimace and declare, “I can’t change my relatives and I can’t change my age!” Fortunately, even though we don’t know what causes diabetes, we do know some things that can greatly improve your chances of living a diabetes-free life. If you have prediabetes, small lifestyle changes can reduce the risks and prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. 

Making time for 30 minutes daily of moderate physical activity, choosing a food plan with less saturated fat and losing between 5% and 10% of your current body weight (7% equals 10 to 20 pounds for most people) are changes that can make all the difference. You are probably thinking, “Easy to say; not so easy to do.” 

Getting support through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recognized diabetes prevention program can help you set your goals, measure your progress, sustain your lifestyle changes and lower your risks. These 12-month programs are led by trained lifestyle coaches and peer mentors and have helped people lose weight and lower the risk of developing diabetes by 58% to 71%. For more detailed information and a prediabetes risk test, go to the following website: bit.ly/1yq9gNz.

For Alaskans in the Interior, there are several options for participating in a recognized diabetes prevention program. The Cooperative Extension Service offers one or two face-to-face yearlong programs in Fairbanks each year. Tanana Chiefs Conference also offers the program for their beneficiaries. To help make programs more widely available, the State of Alaska will have an online option up and running soon. There is also now an exciting opportunity for individuals in Interior Alaska with prediabetes to participate in a program at no cost from their home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is supporting a telephone-delivered diabetes prevention program called Prevent T2. This program will support individuals for 12 months with calls from a coach, Prevent T2 materials and a free digital scale. There will be no need to travel to classes.

If you would like more information about prediabetes and opportunities to participate in classes, please call me at 907-474-2426 or 907-242-6138. I may be walking around the building when you call, but I will definitely get back to you!

Leslie Shallcross is a registered dietitian and the Tanana District health, home and family development agent for Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She can be reached at 907-474-2426 or lashallcross@alaska.edu.