Finding results: North Hawaii participants lose a combined 252 pounds in prediabetes class

Special to West Hawaii Today, June 20, 2017

HONOKAA — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nine out of 10 people have prediabetes and don’t even know it. Last July, Hamakua-Kohala Health Center tackled the problem by offering a free year-long diabetes prevention program that ended June 7.

Prediabetes is identified when a patient’s blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Around 30 percent of those with prediabetes will develop diabetes within five years unless they make some changes, said the CDC.

Jennifer Valera, a certified lifestyle coach at Hamakua-Kohala Health Center led the year-long program.

“There are two ways to prevent diabetes: making a lifestyle change or going on medication,” she said. “I push a buddy system so participants can be held accountable, doing a lifestyle change together. It keeps patients motivated when they have someone they can lean on for support.”

Twenty-four residents participated.

“For the first six months we met once a week,” Valera said. “Then we met once a month.”

Research shows that lifestyle changes of diet and exercise can cut the risk of type 2 diabetes in half. Losing 5 percent of body weight can also help, and it’s advised that adults exercise at least 2.5 hours a week, Valera said. During the program, she helped participants measure their physical fitness and food intake, as well as addressing stress relief.

In last year’s program, one family of four joined class together: father and mother Darren and Melanie Jardine, and their daughter and son-in-law Alana and Henry Masi. Their goal was to live longer for baby Issac, who turns 1 this month.

“The family lost a combined total of 85 pounds,” Valera said.

The parents also joined the program for other reasons.

“I joined the Diabetes Prevention Program to support my wife and because I have high blood pressure,” Henry said. “The program taught me ways to manage my weight loss in a healthy way, one or two pounds a week. Having a goal works well for me. I lost the recommended 7 percent body fat.”

He lost 30 pounds total, according to Valera.

Henry’s wife, Alana, and her mother, Melanie, lost even more weight: a combined total of 48 pounds.

While exercising, Melanie said, “We look back at Alana and she’s jogging with a smile.”

Alana is taking it a step further.

“We’re doing a 5K marathon together as a family this summer,” she announced at the final class earlier this month. “It’s so out of the ordinary for us.”

Graduate Patty Machado took her prediabetes to heart, building a huge greenhouse, 50 x 20 feet, to grow her own fresh and healthy produce.

“One side has red winter kale, arugula, and rocket arugula at the beginning, then butterhead lettuce, then tomatoes and then beets, Anaheim peppers and kale,” she said.

She also has seed pots growing spinach, other types of lettuce, beets, arugula, papaya and red kale.

“I am really appreciative of what we have learned this year,” Machado said. “I know without it I would not have gotten back into real exercise. (It also) helps me mentally. And I would not have focused on healthy eating as much. Without those I would not have lost the weight.”

She also got support from her family. Her 92-year-old mother joined the National Diabetes Prevention Program too, and she got her husband to eat better.

“We have salads. Mine is the large one, Mike’s is the middle one and Mom’s is the little one,” Machado said.

She even brought jicama to the Honoka’a clinic for Valera and staff to try.

New year-long programs will begin in Honokaa and Kapaau in late July. For more information or to sign up, call Jennifer Valera at 930-2746.