GRAND BLANC (WJRT) (11/20/2018) - The CDC is calling it an epidemic. Millions of Americans are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes every year.
A group of Mid-Michigan woman are taking a once disturbing diagnosis and using it to propel them into a healthier lifestyle.
"I was actually gaining weight and didn't even know it," said Jamie Parnell. "I was obese and didn't realize how bad it had escalated while I was in the shuffle and taking care of my three children. I had forgotten about myself."
Just like most of the other women in the diabetes prevention group, when Parnell was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, she knew she had to make a change.
"When you're gestational and you find out, it wasn't just about me. I had a life inside of me," Parnell said.
A life she would do anything to protect, including changing her entire lifestyle.
"With gestational diabetes, I had to really watch every little thing that I ate. I had to prick my finger. It was a lot," Parnell said.
What she went through was exactly what someone with type 2 diabetes goes through every day. But with gestational diabetes, the major medical concerns mostly go away after a period of time.
"Gestational diabetes is mostly because of the hormonal changes in the mom," said nurse and diabetes prevention specialist Anjanette Laurin. "Usually when mom delivers the baby and the hormones go back to normal, then the insulin will typically go back to normal. But it does put the mom and the baby at higher risk for type 2 diabetes later in life."
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health say they have a three-fold to seven-fold risk of developing type 2 diabetes within five to 10 years.
"There's 86 million people with pre-diabetes," Laurin said. "So almost three times as many people that are knocking on the door basically."
A new program with the Ascension Genesys Health System is working closely with the CDC to help women reduce that risk.
"This is basically diabetes prevention," Laurin said. "If you lose 5 to 7 percent of body fat is the recommendation, that we know you can reduce your risk factor by 52 percent."
Dropping over 40 pounds herself, Parnell said knowing she had reduced that risk of developing type 2 diabetes has her continuing to push for a healthy lifestyle she's been developing for the past year.
"If I'm making good choices at home, my kids are watching me make those good choices at home," Parnell said. "So then modeling that behavior, they're eating better."
She isn't the only group member who has taken this dangerous diagnosis and changed their lifestyle.
Patricia Holland was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during her second pregnancy. Just months before, she lost her own mother to diabetes
"The first meeting of the class to tell us about it was the week of my mom's birthday, so i just felt like it was a sign from my mom," Holland said.
She saw it as a sign to regain her strength and her health. After dropping 40 pounds, she's never felt better.
"I have so much more energy," Holland said. "I made the comment to my husband a couple months ago, that I can walk up my stairs and not get our of breath."
Now that the year-long program is coming to a close, the women will not have their monthly meetings as usual, but they all say they plan to stay on track and in touch.
The diabetes prevention program through Ascension Genesys Health System will continue next year helping a new group of women facing the same struggles and a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.