Forget about risk factors: nothing gives people the "diabetes wake-up call" like getting diagnosed yourself — or living through it with a loved one. The latter is what happened recently to Academy-Award winner Olympia Dukakis, whose husband Louis Zorich was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last winter.
Suddenly, diabetes awareness was a top-of-mind issue for the couple, as they realized that early screening may have saved Louis' life and limb. Olympia has joined forces with Novo Nordisk for a new campaign announced this week called called Ask.Screen.Know, which encourages folks over the age of 65 to get in and get screened for type 2 diabetes.
Last week, I had a chance to ask the two a few questions about the campaign and Louis' diagnosis:
DM) Your campaign is all about getting the free screening test for diabetes. What prompted Louis to get screened in the first place?
L) I really wasn't prompted. I happen to have a wonderful doctor who says, "I think you should come in and see me and get blood work." It was at the end of '08. In reality, there are 7 out of 10 people [over the age of 65] who have diabetes and don't know it. I was one of the people fortunate enough to find out through a screening. I would encourage everyone 65 and older to get themselves screened... We are interested in helping other people to become aware of their risk and whether they might already have diabetes without knowing it.
O) The screening is available free from Medicare if you have known risk factors, which are high cholesterol, are overweight, have a family history, or had diabetes during pregnancy.
DM) What was your initial reaction to the diagnosis? Did you have a history of diabetes?
L) Frankly I was surprised, because I had no idea I had it! Although there are people in my family who have it — my mother and three sisters — I thought I was in the clear. But I'm glad I discovered it at my age. It's manageable. You can take care of yourself, eat right, take care of your blood sugar, and exercise. I would tell everyone out there to get screened, so they find out before any damage is done.
DM) How have you both managed diabetes since the diagnosis? Has it been difficult?
O) He's still very difficult to live with! [laughter from both] He's just being more mindful of what he eats, so I'm more mindful of what I eat. It's made us deeply aware that our children need to have information; our children are at risk because it runs in Louis' family.
DM) What made you decide to become a spokesperson for this particular Novo Nordisk campaign?
O) They got in touch with us and asked if we'd partner with them. They felt that because of our personal experience with early screening, we would be credible in this effort. So we decided to just do it.
As part of the campaign, the company has launched a website educating folks about the Medicare screening and what they can do with the information their doctor gives them — very important stuff, like what your glucose numbers mean!
The campaign site offers loads of information, videos (some actually funny!), downloadable tools, etc. There's even an email and voicemail messaging system on the way for those who may not be as tech-savvy.
Know anyone who you think ought to get screened? Now you know where to send them.
Many thanks to Olympia and Louis for calling attention to the cause.