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Seniors at the Tunkhannock Active Adult Center have been participating in “Prevent T2” all year. From left are Debra Petkavich, Patricia Forestin, Marie Wilson and Geisinger wellness associate Kate Foley.

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STAFF PHOTOS/BROOKE WILLIAMS Kate Foley, a Geisinger wellness associate, talks to seniors about diabetes prevention.

Seniors at the Tunkhannock Active Adult Center recently wrapped up a year-long course on diabetes prevention.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer the “Prevent T2” lifestyle change program, which Geisinger has been administering locally to help those who are pre-diabetic, on the verge of becoming pre-diabetic or just want to learn more about preventing type 2 diabetes.

“It is something that despite genetic dispositions can be prevented, so at Geisinger we like to offer these classes to the community and target them to people that are kind of in that range or have questions or a family history,” said Kate Foley, a Geisinger wellness associate who helped teach the class.

At first, the class met weekly during a “core phase” and went over a different topic.

During the following “core maintenance phase,” the class met monthly. This phase was completed last Thursday, where seniors received certificates.

“It bolsters up their confidence with a lot of education up front and then we taper off to give them the tools to apply it to their own life,” Foley explained.

Throughout the past year, nutrition and physical activity were huge themes in the class.

“The goal of the program is to have them reach 150 minutes of physical activity a week. There is also a goal of a five to nine percent weight loss,” she said.

During the final class on Thursday, Foley focused on healthy eating and the importance of getting enough sleep.

“Taking a healthy approach to eating can help you have a healthy food relationship and have food that you enjoy,” she said.

Foley encouraged seniors to make sure they’re eating enough and often enough to avoid symptoms that come with feeling extremely hungry, such as shakiness and lightheadedness.

If one gets to the place where they’re so hungry, they may grab whichever food is most convenient and end up making unhealthy choices.

People might eat when they’re bored, stressed or watching someone else eat, even when they’re not actually hungry.

“Relying on our body’s hunger and fullness signals is very important,” she said.

Some foods to focus on to prevent type 2 diabetes include fruits and vegetables, as well as foods high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and proteins.

As far as getting enough sleep goes, Foley said when people have their sleep and stress under control, they’re more likely to make good choices overall.

“When people are sleep-deprived, sometimes they want certain foods versus making healthier choices, and when you’re tired, you’re probably not likely to exercise as much,” she said.

Sleep matters because a lack of it can cause drowsiness, stress, low immunity, high blood pressure, sadness, high blood sugar and trouble accomplishing tasks.

A combination of eating more, having high blood sugar and gaining weight can make one more susceptible type 2 diabetes.

“Studies show that if you don’t get enough sleep, insulin doesn’t work as well, your body doesn’t know how to process fat as well and your brain has trouble knowing when you had enough to eat,” she said.

Now that the class is over, Foley hopes her students at the center have a better grasp on how becoming aware of the aspects of our health that we can control contributes to the prevention of diseases.

“I hope they take away that type 2 diabetes can be prevented with managing your health and keeping an eye on your nutrition, your physical activity, your stress, your sleep, and how all these things work together to focus on the whole person,” she said.

Other wellness classes from Geisinger include A Matter of Balance and Freedom from Smoking.

There is also a class available for people who have already been diagnosed with diabetes, which helps them learn how to manage the disease.

“All the programs are evidence-based,” Foley added. “We just got nationally recognized for our Diabetes Prevention Program.”

To find out how to get involved with Geisinger’s wellness classes, call 866-415-7138.