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NMSU Extension spring diabetes programs focus on diet, exercise

For many people, January is the month for renewed resolve to be healthy following a holiday season of too much eating and not enough exercise. A return to a healthy routine is particularly critical for people suffering from diabetes, a condition that is among the top five causes of death in several regions of New Mexico, according to 2007 data analyzed in the New Mexico Department of Health's "NM State of Health 2009" report.



María Pacheco administers a diabetes screening test at an August 2010 session of the Keep Moving, Keep Healthy with Diabetes program in Deming. The program, to be offered in several New Mexico counties during spring 2011, helps diabetics and those at risk develop appropriate exercise regimes. (Photo courtesy of Alduín and Sandra Saenz.)

Two programs offered by New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service can help: Kitchen Creations and Keep Moving, Keep Healthy with Diabetes. One or both of these programs are offered in the spring in several New Mexico counties.

Karen Halderson in NMSU's Department of Extension Family and Consumer Sciences is the Extension diabetes coordinator and the statewide coordinator of the Kitchen Creations program. She is based at the NMSU Albuquerque Center. The free program, which is funded by the New Mexico Department of Health, is actually a four-session hands-on cooking school.

The purpose of Kitchen Creations is to introduce people with diabetes and their families to healthy foods and how to prepare them. The program also includes information about diabetes, its effects on metabolism, and the roles of sugar and other carbohydrates, fiber, salt and fat in the diet.

"One of the things that is unique about Kitchen Creations and that the participants really like is the hands-on cooking," Halderson said. And they eat the meals they cook.

"Class by class, participants move outside their comfort zones and discover that they actually like some of the healthy foods they have avoided in the past - as well as some new foods they were unaware of," Halderson said.

Written evaluation comments tend to be positive. The value of the program's hands-on approach was the focus of one student, who said, "I liked it when we sat down and tried to plan our meals. We can listen all day, but if we cannot put it into practice, it does us no good." Another student, hitting on the heart of what the program is about, said, "Now I actually know what I am eating."

Five counties have confirmed Kitchen Creations programs beginning in January and February: Bernalillo County (Jan. 18-Feb. 8) in Albuquerque; Los Alamos County (Jan. 19-Feb. 9) in Los Alamos; Sandoval County (Feb. 2-23) in Rio Rancho; Otero County (Feb. 26-March 19) in Alamogordo; and an accelerated two-session program in Grant County (Jan. 22 and 29) in Bayard.

Halderson expects 25 classes will be offered around the state sometime during spring, more than double the number offered this past fall.

Healthier eating is only one element for keeping the effects of diabetes under control. Appropriate exercise is another.

Keep Moving, Keep Healthy with Diabetes is an Extension program designed to help diabetics and those at risk overcome sedentary habits or physical impediments to exercise.

Lourdes Olivas is a program coordinator in Extension Family and Consumer Sciences based in Las Cruces. She said the free program spans a 12-week period and includes diabetes screening, information about the relationship between exercise and diabetes medication, and exercise ideas for both mobile individuals and those with mobility problems.

"Fancy equipment is not essential to an effective exercise regime," Olivas said. "That allows us to offer our program in a variety of community locations." Program participants are supplied with exercise bands and pedometers and are encouraged to incorporate them into their personal exercise programs.

Olivas is very pleased with her current class that began in Las Cruces shortly after Diabetes Wellness Day in November. "The participants are all eager to get as much information as possible to help manage their diabetes or postpone onset," Olivas said. "Many have been told by their doctors that they have pre-diabetes, so they are really eager to make changes in their lifestyle."

Olivas said Grant, Luna, San Juan and Sierra counties will have KMKH programs starting this spring. Luna County is planning two classes with start dates in February. Olivas anticipates additional counties will get spring programs organized soon.

For more information about the above programs and upcoming classes, contact your local county Extension office or e-mail Karen Halderson at khalders@nmsu.edu. Information is also available on the web at http://ehe.nmsu.edu/diabetes.html

NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service also offers helpful publications about diabetes. See information about the CES Diabetes Series at http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_i/