Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis and her husband, actor Louis Zorich, have partnered with Novo Nordisk, a world leader in diabetes care, to urge at-risk adults 65 and older to get screened for diabetes. The educational program, called Ask.Screen.Know., launched today to encourage people enrolled in Medicare to ask their healthcare provider for a free diabetes screening and to know their blood sugar numbers and what actions to take.

Diabetes is an epidemic, and older adults are particularly affected. Approximately seven out of 10 adults age 65 and older have diabetes or pre-diabetes; and of those people with diabetes, almost half don’t know it. The good news is that with early detection and treatment, the serious health consequences of diabetes can be prevented or delayed.

Since 2005, Medicare has offered free diabetes screening services to those at-risk for diabetes; however, utilization has been low and many older adults are undiagnosed.

For Olympia and Louis, involvement in this program hits close to home. In fact, the couple, who has been married for 47 years, were recently screened for diabetes and Louis learned he has type 2 diabetes.

“When we learned that less than 10 percent of people with Medicare have taken advantage of the diabetes screening benefit, we knew we had to do something,” said Olympia Dukakis. “So we joined forces with Novo Nordisk to share our story – we asked, got screened, and now know where our health stands relative to diabetes.”

“Olympia and I both went in to be screened for diabetes, especially because it runs in my family,” said Louis Zorich. “We realized the importance of taking care of our health and we want to be around for as long as possible for each other. Now that we know I have diabetes, we can manage the disease the right way, by exercising more and eating better.”

Medicare offers free diabetes screening for enrolled adults 65 and older, who have at least one-risk factor for diabetes, including: family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity or overweight, and history of diabetes during pregnancy (women). There is no co-payment or deductible for those age 65 and older in Medicare who are eligible – the screening is simple and free to the patient.

If left unmanaged, diabetes can lead to severe health complications, including blindness, kidney disease, foot amputations, heart disease and stroke.

“The risk for type 2 diabetes increases as you get older,” says Nathaniel Clark, MD, RD, Senior Medical Advisor – Diabetes, Novo Nordisk. “If you are at risk, simply asking your healthcare provider for a free Medicare diabetes screening is an important first step to better health. Once you know your blood sugar level, you can take steps to either prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes, or treat it effectively.”

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