For 28 years, Jack Erickson walked a postal route in Royal Oak. He looked and felt healthy. Along with all those steps he took delivering the mail, the postal carrier rode his bike to work year-round – through rain, sleet and snow.
Then, after retiring in 2017 at 63, Erickson’s activity level hit the brakes. The Troy resident’s weight increased from 160 to 178 pounds. He was told he had a condition called prediabetes.
He vividly recalls his physician telling him he’d develop diabetes if he didn’t make some lifestyle changes. His cholesterol was high and his estimated average blood glucose, or A1C, was 6.2%. People with an A1C of 6.5% or higher have diabetes – a chronic, metabolic disorder which affected his mother and grandmother.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when a person is diagnosed with prediabetes like Erickson, their blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Alarmingly, more than 1 out of every 3 American adults have prediabetes. Most don’t know they have it. This condition is an increased risk for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Erickson heeded his doctor’s warning and was ready to embrace lifestyle changes which could prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. He was pleasantly surprised to learn about a free, diabetes prevention program offered by Beaumont near his home at the Troy Community Center. Erickson liked that it was part of the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program.
He enrolled in the Beaumont Diabetes Prevention Program in October of last year. The program consisted of 16 weekly sessions and monthly maintenance sessions. One year later, he’s dropped 15 pounds, is back to his pre-retirement weight and his glucose levels have returned to normal.
Erickson attributes much of his success to his participation in the Diabetes Prevention Program.
“With the proper support and education, human beings can change their behaviors, lifestyles,” said Erickson. “It takes time to transition, starting with small changes, but we can all change.”
The program provided several important lessons, especially regarding meal planning and exercise.
There was a major emphasis on portion control – eating smaller portions with meals and snacks. This included eating fewer fats.
Erickson explained, “For the first time, I’m reading labels. It’s not just about the total number of calories consumed, but sugars, fats and sodium.”
He took away a lot of tips, such as, when eating at a restaurant, do not try to eat everything on your plate.
Erickson also learned to incorporate exercise in his daily activities. He and his wife, Theresa, joined a fitness club and he purchased an elliptical machine for their home.
“A big take-away: Don’t just eat less, but exercise, too,” said Erickson.
Erickson a guitar and mandolin player, talked about the importance of practicing what he learned in the Diabetes Prevention Program, “Like music lessons, you have to practice what you’ve learned at home and the regular meetings were a great motivator.”
Rebecca Austin, a Beaumont lifestyle coach involved with the program said, “Lifestyle changes require constant support. Along with a supportive environment, we provide participants with tools for their toolbox. The knowledge they gain can be very powerful and life changing.”
Erickson, now 66, is not only grateful for the support of his instructor, but also his wife. Theresa’s provided a good listening ear and actively helps him embrace a healthier lifestyle. She grows fresh vegetables, shops, cooks and has educated herself on nutrition.
Erickson encourages others at risk for diabetes to participate in the Diabetes Prevention Program, “This is definitely a worthwhile program.”