Around 1.8 million adults in Arizona are at high risk for type 2 diabetes, disproportionately affecting certain races and ethnicities, such as Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, and African Americans.
"One in three adults is estimated to have prediabetes, and most do not know it," says Vanessa da Silva, State Director of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Diabetes Prevention Program. "Which is why it's so important to raise awareness about this disease because it can be prevented."
The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) is a national initiative to prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes through lifestyle changes like eating healthy, exercising, and managing stress. These lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent in people with prediabetes.
"Prediabetes doesn't always progress to type 2 diabetes, but when you have prediabetes, your high blood sugar is already doing damage to your cells and increases the risk of mortality, heart disease, and stroke."
The DPP program is offered in English and Spanish and is free for adults 18+ who live in Arizona at least part-time and meet eligibility requirements: being overweight, receiving a clinical diagnosis of pre-diabetes, or having a high score in a diabetes risk survey. For those who don't meet those requirements or who currently have type 2 diabetes and want to take the program, there is a $299 fee.
"We have coaches at brick-and-mortar Extension offices in seven counties across Arizona – Apache, Graham, Maricopa, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, and Yavapai so we can deliver the program locally, help people where they are," says da Silva.
The program is also offered remotely over Zoom.
"We've extended our reach because of delivery over Zoom, and now offer the program statewide. This helps those with mobility or transportation issues or even a lack of time. The Zoom classes have been very successful, and we intend to keep going with both modes."
The sessions are run by trained lifestyle coaches who facilitate conversations about healthy changes in your diet and lifestyle habits like creating better sleep habits, fitting in physical activity, or finding ways to reduce stress.
"We talk about all the things that help and focus on what to work on each week, like eating non-starchy vegetables, adding in exercise and/or resistance training," says da Silva. "It's about making small changes you can consistently implement."
Many of the 400 DPP participants in Arizona reported having lost weight or lowered their A1cs along with lowering cholesterol or getting off certain medications.
"There are more than 2 million people in Arizona who need the program," says da Silva. "But we've only scratched the surface."
Da Silva stresses the importance of getting screened at age 35 or younger, particularly if you have risk factors like obesity or a have a family history.
If you meet the eligibility requirements and are interested in starting this program, classes begin in January 2023. Visit the DPP website for more specific information.