“All of my doctors said I was overweight, but when I requested my medical records it said, “obese.

MaryKathleen Carpenter did not like going to the doctor. A lot. “All of my life I’ve hated going. My back and my knee go out occasionally, and I have a bad hip. But no matter what problem I had – my knee, whatever – the doctor would say it was because of my weight. They wouldn’t even consider anything else.”

MaryKathleen felt dismissed. And judged. But her health problems persisted, and her family convinced her to try again. “They said, if you don’t go to the doctor you won’t ever find out.”

So, reluctantly, she went. And, boy, was it an eye-opener. “All of my doctors said I was overweight, but when I requested my medical records it said, “obese.

“It said ‘obese.’ “

And that was it for MaryKathleen, 5-feet-11-inches tall and 278 pounds. One of her doctors had recommended Virginia Mason Memorial’s Diabetes Prevention Program, and she went.

“Everybody always said, ‘You’re big.’ That’s just how it was,” she says. “I was 5-11 in fourth grade.

“I’ve tried diets all my life. When I started the program I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this the rest of my life. Now I can’t see me not doing it. I promised myself when I started that I wasn’t going to make any changes to my eating habits that I did not want to.”

There’s a bag of broccoli on her desk and a phone in her hand; it’s open to the MyFitnessPal app. “Now I focus on looking at the nutrients I need: potassium, proteins, fiber, calcium and iron. That broccoli, it’s full of potassium and fiber.

“In the program, you need to increase activity by 50 minutes a week, and you’ve got to track fat and calories. I absolutely adore tracking: I did it for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day. I gives me the control I need.”

Also on New Year’s Eve, MaryKathleen, age 46, and her husband went out to welcome in 2018. MaryKathleen, 90 pounds lighter, wore her freshman high school homecoming dress, a form-fitting creamy white number with sequins.

MaryKathleen, however, does not adore physical fitness. That part she’s doing her way. “I don’t care how much you yell at me, I don’t care how much you tell me, I’m not joining a gym. What I do is walk during my breaks and at lunch. And I park in the farthest spot away in parking lots.”

As MaryKathleen closes out her year-long journey through Virginia Mason Memorial’s Diabetes Prevention Program she feels empowered and in charge. “The program gave me direction. It’s given me a method. And I’m not the only one. It gives you other people to share with.

“There aren’t a lot of things I take time away from my family to do for myself. This taught me that if I want to do something, I can do it. I now have the knowledge and power to make a knowing decision.”




“Three years — and more than 200 pounds — ago”

Yakima resident Maury Riker has been a lot of things during his years spent in the working world: paramedic, facilities manager, recycling specialist, company owner, billing expert. But in retirement, he’s got an entirely new gig: healthy lifestyle crusader for Virginia Mason Memorial’s Diabetic Prevention Program.

“My wife’s doctor suggested the program to her. We decided, why not? Let’s go to the orientation.

“I was skeptical, but we went anyway. There was a class starting the very next night.”

That was about three years — and more than 200 pounds — ago. That’s when the Riker family—Maury, Patsy and son Michael — joined Virginia Mason Memorial’s year-long Diabetes Prevention Program and began attending classes, tracking the food they ate, weighing in and adding exercise to their lives. Maury also discovered that he was prediabetic.

And this is Maury Riker now — down from 307 pounds to 218: “All I’ve ever done to lose weight is walk. Now I’m up to 1.5 to 2 hours every day walking at the YMCA, seven days a week except on Sundays in the summer when they’re closed. When I started, I was really lucky if I could walk around the block, but three months into the class I was no longer prediabetic.

“I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve gotten into the program from the Y. A lot of guys have gone through it. One of them was a guy sitting on a couch in the locker room. He was saying, ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.’ I took his hand and he said, ‘My name is Dave, and I’ve already a heart attack and the doctor says I have to change my life dramatically.’ I told him this program would do that. That’s a big step for me, putting myself out there. But he walked up to me at the Y the first part of October, grabbed my hand and said, ‘Maury, you saved my life.’ “

Maury tells anyone who will listen about the Diabetes Prevention Program. In fact, Lori Gibbons, the program’s coordinator, made up cards to hand out especially for him.

“I go to every orientation,” says Maury. “They show a video of me, and then I walk into the room to show them that this is not some clown from New York City or Hollywood, it’s me right here in Yakima. I tell them that it’s actually fun to go through the program. It’s easy once you get the hang of it.”


Maury’s a big fan of the program, but he’s also human. He, and the program, allow for that.

“Life is not a level playing field, there are ups and downs,” he says. “For me, the tracking was a pain in the behind having to write it all down. But I track on an app now and it’s great; I know how many calories I’ve eaten and what I have left for dinner.”

Is there room for any guilty pleasures in the Rikers’ lives? “I have a couple,” says Maury. “Cheezit crackers and peanut butter, and we’ve discovered frozen yogurt instead of ice cream!”

Patsy says simply, “The program has changed our lives.”





Common genes raise diabetes risk, study finds

July 26, 2016— Experts have long known that a person’s risk for getting type 2 diabetes is partly related to genes. But now, a large new study is shining a much brighter light on the disease’s genetic component.

Type 2 diabetes is a serious health problem that affects roughly 1 in 10 people worldwide. Learning more about why some people are more likely to get the disease than others can help scientists develop more effective treatments.

About the study

Researchers studied the DNA of more than 120,000 people of European, South and East Asian, North and South American, and African descent. They compared the genetic information from people without diabetes to those with type 2 diabetes.

They found that most of the genetic risk for diabetes comes from certain common gene changes, or variants. Each of these changes plays a small part in raising a person’s overall diabetes risk.

This knowledge can help scientists find new treatments that take a person’s individual genetic profile into account. However, researchers say more studies are still needed to learn about the gene variants in other groups of people.

Read more about the study in Nature.

The take-home message
Your family history might put you at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. But that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get the disease, says the American Diabetes Association.

Even if you’re predisposed to diabetes, there are plenty of risk factors that you have the power to change. These include:

Being overweight.
Having high blood sugar.
Having high blood pressure.
Having high cholesterol.
Being inactive.
Eating an unhealthy diet.
Talk with your doctor about first steps toward a healthier lifestyle. You might decide to try to eat a healthier diet or exercise more. That can help you lose weight and improve your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. If you smoke, it’s important to come up with a plan for quitting. Your doctor can help with that too.

Want to learn more about diabetes prevention? Test your knowledge and find out about your risk factors with this short quiz.

Sugary drinks up diabetes risk regardless of weight

8 10 15 sugary drinkAug. 8, 2015—Whether you’re overweight or not, drinking sugar-sweetened beverages—such as sodas and fruit-flavored drinks—may increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

The findings, from a study published in the BMJ, suggest that drinking just about a cup of these liquids each day may be dangerous to your health. About half of America indulges in sugar-sweetened beverages, and the study suggests it’s time for a lot of us to start rethinking what we drink.

About the study

Researchers combed through medical databases and found 17 studies that looked at consumption of sweetened drinks and fruit juices, type 2 diabetes and weight. They also used national health surveys that included adults who did not have diabetes at the start of the survey.

Sugar-sweetened beverages were defined as any beverage with added sugar, including sodas and sugar-sweetened fruit juices. Habitual consumption was considered to be having at least one 250-milliliter serving—or about 8.5 ounces—a day.

The analysis found that habitually drinking beverages sweetened with sugar was associated with a higher likelihood of type 2 diabetes. The risk was greater when combined with obesity.

But daily consumption was dangerous for people of normal weight too. Drinking a daily serving increased the risk for diabetes by 18 percent for people who were classified as obese. For non-obese people, the increased risk was 13 percent.

The researchers estimated that, over a 10-year period in the U.S., 11 percent of type 2 diabetes cases could be attributed to sugar-sweetened beverages alone. However, the findings are based on observational studies, which can suggest an association but not point to a direct cause-and-effect relationship between these beverages and type 2 diabetes.

The study was not able to establish a reliable relationship between 100-percent fruit juice or artificially sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes. But the evidence suggested that neither drink was unlikely to be a healthy alternative to sodas and fruit drinks—at least not where diabetes is concerned.
The take-home message

It’s probably a good idea to reduce your consumption of sweet drinks, especially those with added sugars. But how can you do that?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts offer these tips:

Head for the H2O. Water is always a good option for quenching thirst and staying hydrated. It’s inexpensive and has no calories. And it’s easy to flavor with a slice of lemon or lime. And seltzer can give you that bubbly feeling if you’re switching from soda.

Make it milk. Milk has nutrients your body needs—like calcium and potassium. And instead of containing added sugar, it’s fortified with vitamin D. Nonfat and low-fat milk are the healthiest options and have fewer calories than whole milk.

Try unsweetened herbal tea . Steep your own favorite and chill for a flavorful sipper without any caffeine or added sugar.

Tap the power of superfoods to help control diabetes

diabetes superfoodNov. 16, 2014—From the grocery store to your kitchen table, what you eat is a major player in diabetes control and prevention. November is National Diabetes Month, so it’s a great time to dish up some nutrition know-how.

If you have type 2 diabetes, choosing the right foods in the right amounts may help you manage the disease and protect against related complications, such as heart disease and stroke. And even if you don’t have diabetes, eating right to manage your weight may help reduce your risk of developing the disease.

Boost control with superfoods

If you’re rethinking your nutrition, check out this infographic to find an assortment of power-packed foods to rev up your healthy eating plan. These diabetes-friendly foods contain key nutrients and sport a low glycemic index, which helps with blood sugar control.


November is National Diabetes Month

Nov. 12, 2014—This November, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is recognizing National Diabetes Month and urging Americans to take steps to reduce their risk of developing the disease. It’s also a time for those who have the disease to guard against related complications.

People with diabetes are nearly 2 times more likely than those without it to die from heart disease, according to the NIH. They are also more vulnerable to serious kidney, eye and nerve diseases.

More than 29 million Americans have diabetes. And another 86 million or more are on the verge of getting it: Their blood sugar levels are abnormally high but not yet elevated enough for an actual diagnosis of diabetes. This condition is known as prediabetes.

Defining diabetes

There are 3 types of diabetes:

If you have diabetes

If you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, the National Diabetes Education Program encourages following the diabetes ABCs—steps to reduce your risk of diabetes complications. The ABCs stand for:

  • A1C test. This test shows what your blood sugar has been over the last 3 months and can help identify your level of diabetes management.
  • Blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause a heart attack, stroke or kidney disease. The blood pressure goal for most people with diabetes is below 140/90 mm Hg.
  • Cholesterol. LDL—the bad cholesterol—can clog arteries. However, HDL—the good cholesterol—helps clear cholesterol from blood vessels.

Ask your doctor what your ABC goals should be and how to reach them.

If you have prediabetes

The number of Americans living with type 2 diabetes is growing, along with rates of obesity nationwide, according to the NIH. Still, there’s good news: This disease can be prevented. According to the director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, research funded by them shows people with prediabetes who lose just a modest amount of weight—about 15 pounds—may reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58 percent.

If you don’t have diabetes

Even if you don’t have diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends doing your best to stay at a healthy weight, eat well and be active—3 safeguards that can prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes. It is also beneficial to understand your risk factors for developing the disease. This assessment can help you determine if you are at risk of type 2 diabetes.


Diabetes prevention classes at Memorial

Diabetes Prevention Classes at Memorial

Prediabetes is a condition where the blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Memorial’s prevention program helps people lower their risk of type 2 diabetes. Participants meet in groups with a trained lifestyle coach for 16 weekly, one-hour sessions and seven monthly follow up sessions.

If you would like to register for a class or inquire about class dates, call 249-5317.

Please note:
*No referral needed to attend the prevention classes
*Classes are available in Spanish

If you would like to learn more about this program, you can attend an orientation on the last Monday of each month from 4-4:30 p.m. at Memorial’s Community Education Center at 2506 W. Nob Hill Blvd. No registration is necessary for the orientation.

How do I know this program is for me?
•Are you an overweight adult?
•Do you have family members with diabetes?
•Have you had gestational diabetes during pregnancy or did any of your babies weigh 9 lbs or more at birth?
•Have you ever been told you have high blood sugar, prediabetes, or borderline diabetes?

If you answered yes to any of these, you may be at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes Screening Widget


When given the choice, teens don’t want to walk 5 miles for a sugary soda

Nov. 4, 2014—If you saw a sign that said you’d have to walk 5 miles to burn off the calories in a single regular soda, would you:

A. Lace up your walking shoes?

B. Swap the sugary drink for a low-or no-calorie alternative?

If you were a teenager, such a sign might motivate you to choose option B, according to a study from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health published in the American Journal of Public Health.

About the study

Between August 2012 and June 2013, researchers posted signs in 6 corner stores in predominantly black neighborhoods in Baltimore, Maryland. The study focused on black teens and reported that they’re among the heaviest consumers of sugary beverages and have a higher risk of obesity.

Each brightly colored, 8.5-by-11-inch sign presented, in question form, 1 of 4 facts about 20-ounce sugar-sweetened beverages:

  • Did you know that a bottle of soda or fruit juice has about 250 calories?
  • Did you know that a bottle of soda or fruit juice has about 16 teaspoons of sugar?
  • Did you know that working off the calories in a bottle of soda or fruit juice takes about 50 minutes of running?
  • Did you know that working off the calories in a bottle of soda or fruit juice takes about 5 miles of walking?

During the study period, adolescents between 12 and 18 purchased 3,098 drinks in the stores with the signs. When researchers asked a quarter of those young people about the signs, 35 percent said they saw the signs. Of those who saw the signs:

  • 59 percent said they believed the signs.
  • 40 percent said they changed their behavior because of the signs, either buying a drink with fewer or no calories, a smaller-sized drink, or no drink at all.

Even after the signs were gone, teens kept making healthier choices than before the signs were posted.

The take-home message
Though the study focused on black teens, the findings may help a larger demographic: Simple strategies such as posting the calories-in, calories-out equation can help motivate kids to choose healthier food and drinks.

From sodas and fruit smoothies to lattes and sports drinks, sugar-sweetened beverages are contributing to adolescent obesity.

Until stores join the campaign to address childhood obesity by posting informational signs like those used in the study, it’s up to parents to take action. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping sugar-sweetened drinks out of the home and stocking the refrigerator with cold water to encourage healthy beverage choices.


Are you at risk for type 2 diabetes? Get screened

Oct. 8, 2014—Nearly half of adults who ought to be screened for type 2 diabetes aren’t getting the job done, a study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found.

Researchers looked at information from two large national health studies involving more than 35,000 people that collected data between 2005 and  2010. They found that the number of people age 45 or older who reported being screened for diabetes in the previous three years was just 53.2 percent. And they estimated that at least a third of people with diabetes have yet to be diagnosed.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that all adults older than 45 get screened for the disease, whether they have symptoms or not.

Read the full study here.

Who’s at risk?

Obesity is closely linked to developing type 2 diabetes. And as obesity rates have risen, so has the number of people with diabetes.

A variety of factors can increase a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes. Some of these include:

  • Being 45 or older
  • Being overweight
  • Having a parent or sibling with the disease
  • Having high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol levels
  • Being inactive
  • For women: having had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes), giving birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more, or having polycystic ovarian syndrome
The take-home message
Screening is an essential tool in the fight against diabetes.

For instance, if screening uncovers prediabetes, it may be possible to prevent the progression to diabetes by making lifestyle changes such as eating healthfully and exercising more.

And if screening finds that a person already has diabetes, being diagnosed and taking action can help prevent serious, even deadly, complications.

How screening works

Screening for diabetes, which involves a blood test, is fairly simple and may be done in a variety of ways. The A1C test measures your average blood glucose levels over the past several weeks. Other tests may require you to fast (not eat or drink) for several hours before testing. Another type, the oral glucose tolerance test, measures blood glucose levels before and after drinking a sugary drink. This helps show how well your body is processing glucose.

If you are 45 or older and have not been screened for diabetes or you are concerned about your risk factors, talk with your health care team.

Get more details on type 2 diabetes and its risk factors here.

Memorial offers diabetes blood sugar and foot screenings on Tuesday mornings from 8-10 a.m.
A Spanish translator is available on the 3rd Tuesday of each month.

For most accurate blood sugar screening results, do not eat or drink anything 8-12 hours prior to screening.

Screens are held at the Center for Diabetes Prevention and Control, Memorial Hospital Lower Level, 2811 Tieton Drive, Yakima.

No registration needed.

Memorial’s Diabetes Prevention Program – Changing Lives

We just completed week 4 of the Diabetes Prevention Program when a participant in the class started talking about a goal that she had set for herself. Her goal was to walk up four flights of stairs as she would normally take the elevator to avoid the stairs. She told us that she had finally accomplished that goal. Everyone started applauding her and congratulating her for reaching this goal. The amount of support I felt coming from the class participants was amazing. I hope others in the class realize that no matter how big or small of a goal you have, if you just stick with it you can accomplish it! This moment in class reaffirmed why I am happy that I became a lifestyle coach. I am honored that these women have allowed me to help them lead healthier lives by giving them the tools they need to succeed in this program.

By Catherine Shepler

Diabetes Prevention Program
Prediabetes is a condition where the blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Memorial’s prevention program helps people lower their risk of type 2 diabetes. Participants meet in groups with a trained lifestyle coach for 16 weekly, one-hour sessions and seven monthly follow up sessions. If you would like to learn more about this program, you can attend an orientation on the last Monday of each month from 4-4:30 p.m. at Memorial’s Community Education Center at 2506 W. Nob Hill Blvd. No registration is necessary for the orientation.

How do I know this program is for me?
• Are you an overweight adult?
• Do you have family members with diabetes?
• Have you had gestational diabetes during pregnancy or did any of your babies weigh 9 lbs or more at birth?
• Have you ever been told you have high blood sugar, prediabetes, or borderline diabetes?

If you answered yes to any of these, you may be at risk for type 2 diabetes.
For more information about this program, please call Lori Gibbons at 509-248-7322.