Alana Beard

*Washington Mystics All-Star Guard Alana Beard is an expert at dribbling a basketball on the court, but Beard has taken on a new challenge: fighting diabetes.

The four-time WNBA All-Star has joined the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Women’s Basketball Association (WNBA) and the NBA Development League in collaboration with the American Diabetes Association and Sanofi US to kick off the Dribble to Stop Diabetes campaign.

The “Dribble to Stop Diabetes” campaign will be holding arena nights at WNBA games featuring on-court activity and public service announcements. The PSAs will feature Beard along with NBA Legends Walt Frazier and Chris Dudley and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic. Teams will also provide fans with diabetes educational materials.

“Our main goal is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and raise awareness of diabetes prevention,” said Beard, who added that after researching the disease, she was surprised at how widespread it was in the United States. “Every 20 seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes.”

According to statistics, 26 million Americans have diabetes and nearly 19 percent of all African Americans older than 20 have diabetes.

What’s even more alarming is that 7 million Americans remain undiagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association advises people diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, dried beans, fish, lean meats and non-fat dairy products.

The Association also advises increasing the level of physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight.

The WNBA guard added that diabetes hit close to home: she discovered that her grandfather suffered from severe diabetes and had to have his leg amputated. She also learned that her grandmother carried the trait.

“I had my whole family—mom, dad, brother, sister as well as my nieces and nephews tested for diabetes,” said Beard. “Fortunately, they’re all diabetes free.”

Beard said she is proud that the WNBA is getting involved to inform and educate fans about the disease.

“I am an athlete, and I know what it takes to live a healthy life,” said Beard.  “I’ve always said any time that I could be in the position to help someone, I would help them.  And right now, I’m in that position so I can encourage people to lead healthy lives, to be active and to do whatever it takes to stay healthy.”

Beard said that people can take a risk assessment test for diabetes by logging on to www.dribbletostopdiabetes.com.