Red Bank, NJ (July 5, 2016) – Retired teacher Cecilia Santiago was concerned about developing diabetes due to family history and high blood pressure, so when she heard about a YMCA program that could reduce her risk of the disease, she didn’t hesitate to sign up.

The 75-year-old Red Bank resident is among the first group of adults at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes participating in the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program offered by The Community YMCA. Funded by two grants from the YMCA of the USA, the program is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program and has proved successful at reducing the risk of developing the disease, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

After six months in The Community YMCA’s program, which takes place at Wesleyan Arms, a senior community where Santiago resides, she is feeling stronger, healthier and more confident. “I’ve lost 14 pounds and I have a whole new way of life,” she said, noting that she has increased her physical activity and is making healthier food choices.

Terrell Wilson, Associate Membership Director at The Community YMCA and facilitator of the Diabetes Prevention Program, said the program helps those at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles. “The program provides assistance for those at risk to learn about eating healthier, increasing physical activity and losing weight to reduce their chance of developing the disease,” he said, adding that the program is led by a trained Lifestyle Coach in a classroom setting, over a 12-month period. It begins with 16 weekly sessions, followed by meetings once a month.

Santiago said she enjoys all aspects of the program, especially the support from participants in the group and being more active, both at the Y, where she attends a Senior Fitness Class three times a week, and at the Wesleyan, which hosts a weekly tai chi class.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans or 86 million, have prediabetes, up from 79 million in 2010. Prediabetes is a condition in which a person’s blood glucose is elevated, but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. Only 10 percent of those with prediabetes know they have it but with awareness and simple actions, people with prediabetes may prevent the onset of diabetes.

The Y encourages Monmouth County residents “to learn about their risks for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, and to take preventive steps to potentially reduce their chances of developing the disease,” Wilson said.

The next session of the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program will begin on September 24 and classes will be held at the Red Bank Family Health and Wellness Center and at community locations. The program cost may be covered by health insurance, and is now free to Medicaid recipients. Participants may also be eligible for YCares financial assistance.

Participants do not need to be members of the Y to enroll.

For more information about the program, financial assistance, or to see if you qualify, contact dpp@cymca.org.