By: Amy Mercer
Imagine if you could keep diabetes at bay for another three or four years with lifestyle changes. Would you change what you ate? Would you commit to an exercise program, maintain a food journal, and join a support group? Imagine if you could take these simple steps and save money. How quickly would you say “Sign me up”?
There are approximately 80 million people with prediabetes in the US, and that number is growing. According to the ADA, “Prediabetes is the state that occurs when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes.”
A recent study published in Health Affairs found that enrolling people with prediabetes in a proven weight loss program could save Medicare billions of dollars. Diabetes is a costly illness, and the promise of massive savings has been a boon for existing and emerging preventive programs across the country.
The Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa has been espousing the benefits of a healthy lifestyle since the 1970s. Three components make up the Pritikin Program: nutrition, exercise, and mind-body health. Medical Director Dr. Ronald Scheib says that Pritikin is a blending of standard medical care and teaching personal responsibility.
“Initially we were serving a population of people who wanted to lose weight,” Scheib says. “Now we have 25 percent who want to lose weight, and 25 percent who are obese and have been told by their doctors that they are prediabetic. Twenty-five percent are people with type 2 diabetes, and the last 25 percent are people with heart problems.”
In August 2010, based on proven success in reversing heart disease and controlling diabetes, Medicare announced that they would cover cardiac rehab at Pritikin. For now, the cost of the program for people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes is high, but includes a variety of amenities and could save money on hospital visits and medications in the long run.
The average stay at Pritikin is two weeks. Participants are assigned to individual experts who formulate a specific exercise and diet plan. Daily lectures, seminars, workouts, counseling, and stress management workshops are part of the curriculum. Medical lectures range from basic to more advanced classes on sleeping, nutrition, diabetes, heart disease, and more.
But what happens when clients leave the structured environment and go out into the real world?
Dr. Scheib says the Pritikin team trains on people how to live once they leave the program. “When they start to slip, they do two things: say ‘what the hell,’ or come back. I tell them to give me a call,” he says.
Many clients return to the luxurious setting in South Florida. “Pritikin’s strength is that we are a residential program,” says Scheib. “Clients can always sneak away and get a cheeseburger, but most of them don’t. They bond with one another when they arrive and create a support system that keeps them motivated.”
There is no magic pill when it comes to living well and leading a healthy life. Programs like Pritikin have proven that success takes dedication to a change in lifestyle and a belief that the long-term results are invaluable.
1. American Diabetes Association,
2. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2010.0944 Health Aff September 2011 vol. 30 no. 9 1673-1679
3. The Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa, http://www.pritikin.com/