by Ashley Swanson, South Heartland District Health Department

HASTINGS, NE - Diabetes is a life-long health condition that disrupts how a person’s body turns food into energy. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States more than 1 in 3 adults have prediabetes, which puts them at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

However, there are ways to prevent prediabetes from turning into diabetes, as was found by Hastings resident Kenny Morris, who was diagnosed with prediabetes by his doctor in 2017. 

Having had a grandmother who was diagnosed with diabetes, and knowing some of the issues she dealt with, Morris didn’t want his diagnosis to worsen, so he knew he had to make some lifestyle changes. 

That’s when his doctor recommended the Smart Moves Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) led by Liz Chamberlain at the South Heartland District Health Department. 

During the in-person year-long series of classes, Morris said they were taught about portion sizes; avoiding fad diets; eating healthy, energizing foods; and incorporating exercise in each day. 

Changing his food habits was one of the bigger challenges he had to face. “That was another thing about foods, learning what foods help to eliminate the craving and make you feel fuller, longer, and give you more protein.” 

When he took the classes, he was driving truck and, to get in his exercise, Morris said he would park the truck, get in his 250 steps and then get on the road again. 

“[The classes] give you different ideas on if you’re at the office or if you’re at home, just different ideas of getting some strength exercises, cardio, such as walking or running or jogging. And I found that very helpful.” 

Morris also noted how if participants are having trouble with an exercise they can talk with Chamberlain and she’ll find ways to help them out to make the exercise more manageable. 

The Smart Moves DPP is a year-long program consisting of weekly sessions for 4 months followed by monthly sessions for 8 months. Participants meet in a small group with a lifestyle coach and receive handouts and resources they can take home and keep for future use. They set weight loss and exercise goals and the coach helps them stay on track. 

Support from others, especially family, was something Morris said was a huge aspect to the program. “That support is a major issue, because if the family support is not there it makes it hard to go through and complete it and do what you need to do. You could see the successes of the ones that did go through the class and it did make a difference and how their support was, and how for others how the support wasn’t quite there.” 

After the first go-round in the class, Morris was no longer classified as pre-diabetic, and his doctor was excited to see Morris’s results, including a healthy weight loss.  

At almost 70, Morris said he decided to take the class again—this time in the online format—for a refresher. Over the past five or so years, he’s had some knee surgeries and has since retired. 

“I think it’s just started to catch up with me and I just wanted a refresher. My clothes weren’t fitting and I could tell the weight was coming back on,” he said, thinking, ‘OK, I gotta stop. What did I do last time?’ 

For people who may be at risk for prediabetes, including those who are over 45 years of age, have an immediate family member such as a parent or brother/sister with type 2 diabetes, or who are not physically active, getting a prediabetes check-up is a good way to keep on top of your health. 

For those who have been diagnosed with prediabetes but aren’t sure where to start, Morris suggests taking the Smart Moves class. 

“It woke me up. This class has a lot of good information and it’s what you do with it and it’s how you deal with it. I think it will definitely make a difference and help turn things around.”

For more information about diabetes prevention or to sign up for a Smart Moves Diabetes Prevention program in your area, call South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 and ask to speak with Liz Chamberlain.