Doug Voltin managed just fine in his personal battle to prevent diabetes until a stroke two years ago left him with vertigo and unable to exercise.
Without power walks to stay fit and keep his blood sugar low, the Eagan man faced the unpleasant prospect of actually watching what he ate. Diets had never really taken hold in the past.
"I had to do something," said Voltin, 71, "because … I went from a very active lifestyle to absolutely nothing."
Something turned into the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program, a series of 16 weekly lifestyle training sessions that costs more than $400 but is free for Medicare recipients who are prediabetic.
The American Medical Association launched a publicity campaign in the Twin Cities last month to promote physician screenings of patients for diabetes and referrals to the Y program.
"Over two-thirds of the adult population is at risk for type 2 diabetes and few are aware," said Sheryl Grover, director of chronic disease prevention for the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. "The YMCA's program can help participants make small lifestyle changes that result in big rewards."
Participants in the Y program last year lost 5 percent of their body weight — a threshold that correlates with a reduced risk of diabetes. Grant funding makes the program free for Medicare recipients for now, but Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has proposed legislation to make it a permanent Medicare benefit. (Others can enroll and pay on their own or seek reimbursement from their health plans.)
Voltin liked that his Y trainer didn't tell him to stop eating certain foods, but rather gave him a diary to track his fat consumption and to decide on his own how to stay below a threshold of 42 grams of fat per day.
It didn't start out well; the first weekend in the program, he ordered eggs Benedict for Sunday brunch. "It was 56 grams of fats," he admitted.
Over time, he learned to balance his diet and find ways to cut fats — such as simply substituting ice cream with frozen yogurt — and his weekly consumption dropped to 204 grams and then 175 grams.
An instructor also got Voltin started on yoga exercises in a chair — something he could tolerate without dizziness — and he eventually was able to add miles of walking back to his exercise regimen.
His doctor was shocked this spring to find that Voltin's blood sugar had dropped out of the pre-diabetes range altogether. Voltin said. "He's now sending his [other] patients to the program."