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Longtime Juneau resident Bridget Smith recently noticed how fit and healthy her family and friends in the lower 48 looked. These people all had one thing in common: They'd enrolled in an evidence-based program focused on healthier living. 

Bridget looked for a similar program and discovered the Health Matters program right here at Bartlett Regional Hospital. She signed up and began attending group meetings on healthy food preparation, portion sizes, strength training and aerobic exercise recommendations. 

"I'm not trying to create anything new, really, for people," says Health Matters instructor/coach Sarah Lewis. "Yes. We need more fiber; we need more vegetables. It's reinforcing things that people already know and putting it into a structure where they can start to fit it into their lives in an incremental way." 

"I'm looking for recipes that have lots of vegetables, buying big bags of spinach and power grains, and throwing them in stews and soups—even if the recipe doesn't call for it," says Bridget. "Anything that I can do to increase the plant-based foods."

The program is targeted toward those with prediabetes, but Bridget is in the program just because she wants to get healthier. "I feel that I'm actively doing something every day that benefits my health. It's at the forefront of my consciousness," she says. 

"It's about a preventive lifestyle change for our metabolic systems," adds Sarah, "for brain health, heart health, our overall health." Participants are encouraged to work toward a weight loss of 5% to 7%.

Bridget finds motivation in her Health Matters classmates. "This is the kind of program that could work for anyone who wants to improve their health outcomes. Anyone," she says.

Health Matters is Medicare-eligible and scholarships are available. To learn more, call Cynthia Gordon-Nickerson, diabetes educator, at 907-796-8649.

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