Free program helps head off diabetes for those at high risk

July 11, 2017 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Heroes
When Bellwood resident Doris Courts, 78, was diagnosed with prediabetes several years ago, she was determined to do all she could to avoid full-blown diabetes. She had seen too many of her family members and acquaintances with the disease suffer serious complications.

The retired reading teacher started the battle by focusing on weight loss. She used Weight Watchers and other weight management programs. She lost 22 pounds through those efforts, but did not improve her A1C level, a test used to diagnose diabetes and prediabetes.

In early spring 2016, Courts visited the Diabetes Learning Center at Elmhurst Hospital in search of programs that might help.

She says, “I was able to get into the Center’s Jumpstart Your Health program.”

Jumpstart Your Health is a free, one-year program for adults who have prediabetes or risk factors for diabetes, such as a family history of the disease, high cholesterol or blood pressure, excess weight, or a history of gestational diabetes.

Registered dietitian Julie Sanfilippo, a lifestyle coach with the Center, leads the Jumpstart program, which follows guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control.

“Our goal is to help people reduce the risk of developing diabetes,” says Sanfilippo. “Research suggests that lifestyle changes are twice as effective as medications in preventing diabetes. That’s why we focus on nutrition, exercise, behavior modification and stress management.”

Sanfilippo says typical goals for individual group members might be to lose 5 to 7 percent of their weight and complete 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.

Before joining Jumpstart, Courts had cut way back on her water aerobics and gym workouts. Once in Jumpstart, she committed to becoming more active again. Courts created her own at-home exercise program that she follows diligently five days a week.

She says, “I do an hour on the treadmill and 40 minutes of exercises based on the physical therapy routines I’d been given.”

Courts also faithfully attended her Jumpstart sessions, which were held at the Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Lombard. Meetings were held weekly for the first three months, every two weeks for the second three months, and monthly for the last half-year.

“The program led to a complete lifestyle change for me,” says Courts. “Julie (Sanfilippo) is excellent and very nice. She taught us how to make healthy food choices and control portions. She also stressed the importance of tracking what we’d eaten. That included whether we stayed within the allowance of fat grams she’d given each of us. We tracked our exercise, too. We were given a pedometer and encouraged to walk 10,000 steps a day.”

How did Courts stay motivated?

“Being part of a group makes you feel more accountable,” she says. “There was a lot of sharing of ideas, personal experiences and recipes. Everyone was cordial, and several even brought in samples of food they thought the others would like.”

Courts is happy to report that she met her personal goals.

“I’m no longer classified as prediabetic. My A1C is within the normal range. My other numbers are good, too. Cholesterol is down 25 points, glucose is down and my sed rate (a measure of inflammation in the body) dropped. I also lost 21 pounds. I feel so much better.”

As a next step, she joined a support group of other Jumpstart graduates that will meet every two months at Elmhurst Hospital.

The Jumpstart Your Health program is funded by grants from the Lions Club International Foundation – in conjunction with the local Elmhurst Lions Club and Lions District 1J – and the Elmhurst Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Learn more about Jumpstart Your Health.

Learn more about weight loss services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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7 signs you might have diabetes
You have prediabetes -- can you fix it?
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