Retired Freehold couple Jane and Donald O’Brien, ages 62 and 63, hadn’t been prioritizing healthy eating and exercise habits – until they were both diagnosed with prediabetes last fall. After enrolling in CentraState’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recognized Diabetes Prevention Program, they’re now healthier than they’ve been in years.
“Our diagnosis was the motivation we needed to change our lifestyle,” says Jane.
The year-long program helps prevent or delay the onset of diabetes through evidence-based lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and physical activity.
Within six months after starting the program, Donald’s A1C – the blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the previous three months – dropped from 6.1 to 5.7 percent, while Jane’s decreased from 5.8 to 5.5 percent. An A1C from 5.7 to 6.4 percent is diagnosed as prediabetes, and 6.5 percent or higher indicates a diabetes diagnosis.
“Our program gives participants the tools they need to create lasting change,” says Anne-Marie Neumann, RN, BSN, MSEd, CHC, wellness coach coordinator and facilitator of the program.
Neumann leads discussions on topics including mindful eating and making good food choices, healthy sleep habits, identifying stressors, finding support, and making physical activity something you enjoy. The program starts with 16 weekly sessions and then transitions to biweekly and monthly sessions.
“At each session, participants share what’s working, discuss hurdles, and troubleshoot challenges as a group,” adds Neumann. “We all root for each other’s success.”
With Neumann’s guidance, Jane, a recently retired teacher’s aide, and Donald, a retired Jersey City firefighter, now maintain a diet filled with vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. They read nutrition labels, plan their meals, measure their portions, and limit their intake of sweets, breads, and pasta.
They have also started an exercise regimen that continues to yield encouraging results. Jane rides her bike and walks, aiming for 10,000 steps daily. Donald has developed a renewed love for yard work that, coupled with their healthy habits in the kitchen, has their weight down a combined 35 pounds.
“Jane and Donald lead by example,” says Neumann of the first married couple to enroll in the program. “They have a great attitude and are the first to offer encouraging words. They face all their challenges and if they have an off week, they own it and bounce back the next.”
The O’Briens, their family, and their friends are thrilled with the changes they’ve made. They’re more active now and love taking walks around Lake Como near their beach house.
“This program has been a wonderful gift,” says Donald. “It has likely added many years to our lives, free of diabetes. We hope to continue what we started so that we can travel and remain active into the next phase of life.”
For more information on the Diabetes Prevention Program at CentraState, visit centrastate.com/diabetes or call 732-294-2574.