Diabetes Forecast

Oprah Tackles Diabetes

By Tracey Neithercott ,

Spurred by a diabetes epidemic that directly affects nearly 24 million Americans, Oprah Winfrey dedicated her February 4 show to the disease. "We're trying to save lives today," she told an audience of people with diabetes or pre-diabetes, and friends and family of those with diabetes. "[It should be] a big wake-up call for you and your family."

During the hour, Winfrey spoke with experts about the causes of diabetes, the difference between type 1 and type 2, the disease's complications, risk factors and warning signs, and prevention. "It's commendable that Oprah Winfrey is focusing on diabetes," says Richard Bergenstal, the American Diabetes Association's president of medicine and science. "Type 2 diabetes and its complications disproportionately affect African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans."

The talk show host also announced a partnership with Walgreens pharmacy: On Friday, February 5, Walgreens will offer free diabetes screenings. You can visit a 24-hour Walgreens pharmacy or one that has a Take Care Clinic between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. to get your blood glucose tested and to learn if you're at risk for the disease. Don't have a 24-hour Walgreens or Take Care Clinic near you? Call 1-800-WALGREENS (1-800-925-4733) to make an appointment at your local store.

Mehmet Oz, MD, a cardiologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and host of The Dr. Oz Show, explained to viewers why diagnosing and treating diabetes early is key. Though The Oprah Winfrey Show primarily focused on the type 2 diabetes epidemic, Oz made a trip to the hospital to interview a 44-year-old woman with type 1 diabetes who had a foot and half a leg amputated and was receiving dialysis for kidney failure. "Try and take care of yourself early," she said, "because I didn't when I was young."

In another segment, Ian Smith, MD, creator of The 50 Million Pound Challenge and author of The 4 Day Diet, went to a church in Dayton, Ohio, where nearly all of the African American parishioners have type 2 diabetes. Smith taught the congregation about nutrition and implored churchgoers to take diabetes seriously.

"Why wait until it's a crisis situation? People say, 'I'll make a change tomorrow. I'll do it tomorrow,' " Smith said. "And that's what's killing people because by the time they get diagnosed, the complications happen and it's too late."

Exercise physiologist Bob Greene, author of The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes, joined Smith to teach the churchgoers about physical fitness and its effect on preventing type 2 diabetes. "We don't move as a culture, and it's a huge culprit in accelerating this disease of diabetes," said Greene.

And chef Art Smith, who once appeared on the Oprah show to cook a high-fat, high-calorie, carb-heavy Southern-style cake, reappeared Thursday with a message: Get tested for diabetes. Smith dropped 85 pounds and reversed his type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise.

Diabetes is a leading cause of death in the United States, which is why Winfrey ended the show with a call to action: "No more excuses," she said. "The denial ends today."



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