Yesterday afternoon, Olympia Dukakis and husband Louis Zorich drew a crowd of over two hundred individuals to the Quincy Council on Aging, at the Kennedy Center. They spoke with the community about their Ask.Screen.Know. campaign which is a simple yet realistic way in which people can cope with diabetes. Louis was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years back, prompting the couple to team up with the healthcare company Novo Nordisk to spread awareness about the disease.
With an incredible amount of poise and a touch of humor, the couple described what it was like hearing the news of Louis’s diagnosis, the steps they’ve taken to treat the disease and their campaign to inform others who may be at risk. The way they spoke about their journey allowed others to hear that although the news can be devastating, the disease can also be quite manageable.
When I asked Louis about his initial reaction to the diagnosis he said that despite knowing he had a family history of diabetes, he was shocked. Seven out of ten adults over the age of 65 have diabetes and he never believed he would be one of those seven. It is important to note that diabetes is partially genetic and partially due in part to one’s lifestyle choices.
Anyone 65 years or older, overweight, with a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol should ASK their doctor for a diabetes screening. Since 2005, Medicare has offered free screenings to anyone who falls under any of the above categories. So if you are a Medicare recipient, there is no reason why you shouldn’t get tested.
The SCREEN part of the campaign is relatively easy. Once you ask your doctor for a diabetes screening, a simple test is done in the doctor’s office to measure blood sugar levels. Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose (sugar) levels are considered above normal. It is characterized by body’s inability to produce, or to metabolize, the human hormone insulin (which breaks down sugar for energy usage).
Once the screening is done, it is important to KNOW what the results actually mean. Contrary to what many people think, there is no actual cure for diabetes. Although blood sugar levels can be managed relatively easily, the disease doesn’t go away. If you are diabetic, it is extremely important to check blood sugar levels multiple times a day (usually before and after each meal).
Exercising regularly, eating right, testing blood sugar levels before and after meals, and medication can keep a diabetic person free of other problems (i.e., heart attack, stroke, kidney failure). Olympia added that, “It is also very important to have a strong and flexible attitude.” With the right attitude and a few simple lifestyle changes, a diabetic can easily control the disease instead of allowing it to control them.
A special thanks to Olympia Dukakis, Louis Zorich, those at Novo Nordisk, the River Bay Club, Quincy Council on Aging and all others who made this event possible.