By Amanda Grayson - Contributor

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Reverse It: A family shock sends Blue Cross employee on health improvement journey

September 13, 2017

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows a startling statistic— more than one out of three adults in America have prediabetes, a serious health condition that often leads to Type 2 diabetes. Even more surprising, 90 percent of people with prediabetes don’t even know they have it.

Jenny Harstad, health solutions program manager at Blue Cross and a registered nurse, figured it was just a matter of time before she became one of the statistics.

“My cholesterol had crept up a little bit. My blood pressure had crept up a little bit. My fasting blood glucose had crept up a little bit,” she said. “I don’t have a diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes, but I think when you see those numbers from year to year creep up a little bit more and a little bit more, you wonder where’s that tipping point that you actually do end up with a diagnosis.”

A wake-up call to control health

Jenny knew she needed to take control of her health after her stepdad suffered a massive heart attack in January.

“I watched my family stand in that room and my stepdad lying in that bed with no response to anything for so long. I thought to myself, I never want to be that person in the bed, and I never want my family to be standing around staring at me like that. I thought it’s time to make some significant changes.”

Jenny lost 19 pounds on a popular 30-day diet, but knew she needed a long-term solution. She signed up for Omada Health, which was offered as a benefit from Blue Cross.

Omada is a 16-week program designed to help participants lose weight and reduce their risk of chronic disease. Participants receive a digital scale that syncs with their account. An app shows weigh-in data and includes a food journal. There’s also an online community for support, and a health coach provides weekly lesson plans.

Changing habits with Omada

“As a registered nurse, there were some lessons that were familiar territory for me, but it’s not bad to have a reminder,” she said. “They talk about food and emotional eating. They talk about exercise and increasing your daily activity, and they talk in a way that is fun and doable for people.”

Exercise is now habit for Jenny. She joined some group fitness classes offered at work and now regularly does kettle bell workouts, boot camps and other cross-training classes. She’s also discovered a love of riding bike.

At the end of the program, Jenny had lost 39 pounds and saw big improvements in her health.

“Before, my fasting blood glucose was on the high end of normal. I just went for my yearly exam, and it’s very much in the normal range now. To see those numbers back down where they used to be feels really good.”

Working to inspire other’s success

Since completing the program, Jenny has inspired a lot of people around her.

“I’ve heard a ton of feedback. It’s not so much me that I’m happy for – it’s the fact that other people are taking the opportunity to get healthy. Hopefully, they have the success that I do. I will say, if I can do it, anyone can do it.”

Reverse It

Blue Cross launched the Reverse It campaign last month, which was covered in this blog post.

The “Reverse It” campaign is built around a simple seven-question quiz developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The assessment also includes helpful steps people can take to avoid type 2 diabetes and even reverse early indicators of prediabetes.

You can take the quiz, as well as learn more about Omada Health and prediabetes prevention, at bluecrossmn.com/reverseit.

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