Area residents are invited to participate in the National Diabetes Prevention Program, an initiative of Becker County Energize and supported by Essentia Health, at no cost starting Tuesday, November 29. The lifestyle change program includes education and support for people with pre-diabetes and those at a high risk for pre-diabetes.

About 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes, which means their blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but aren't high enough yet to be diagnosed with diabetes. Studies show people with pre-diabetes can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by simply improving their diet and increasing their exercise. Losing just 5 to 7 percent of their body weight can reduce their risk of diabetes by almost 60 percent.

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The 24-session National Diabetes Prevention Program was created by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Participants will meet with an instructor once a week for 16 weeks, followed by eight monthly sessions. The classes address ways to eat healthier, increase physical activity and lose weight.

Community members are eligible if they are at least 18 years old, are overweight, do not currently have diabetes and aren't pregnant. There is no cost for the program and participants don't need to be Essentia Health patients. It's important for participants to check with their healthcare provider to find out if they have pre-diabetes and if they are healthy enough for moderate exercise, such as walking.

Meetings will be held at 5:30 pm on Tuesday evenings from November 29 to March 14 at the Essentia Health St. Mary's EMS Building in Detroit Lakes. For questions regarding the program or to enroll contact Tracy Baker, Essentia Community Health Facilitator, at 218-314-7388 or