November 08, 2018
4 min read

ADA, AHA launch ‘Know Diabetes by Heart’ initiative

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NEW YORK — The American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association have announced a joint, multiyear partnership to raise awareness about the increased risk for cardiovascular disease among those living with type 2 diabetes.

The Know Diabetes by Heart initiative, officially launched Thursday, includes a new website,, with resources for those with type 2 diabetes, including education materials on the increased risk for CVD. The site also includes a risk awareness quiz and a discussion guide with “conversation starters” for patients’ next appointment with their health care provider.

At a luncheon to announce the initiative in New York City last week, Tracey D. Brown, CEO of ADA, said the partnership, for her, is personal.

“I am a type 2 diabetic, and I have been living with this for 15 years,” Brown said during the event. “This is personal for me, and it is very real. There are over 30 million Americans who are living with diabetes, and [that number] is growing. Someone dies from diabetes and its complications every 6 and a half minutes.”

Tracey D. Brown, the CEO of the American Diabetes Association, speaks at a luncheon in New York City during which the ADA and American Heart Association announced the Know Diabetes by Heart initiative.
American Diabetes Association

CVD, Brown added, is the No. 1 complication of type 2 diabetes, noting that a person with diabetes is diagnosed with stroke, on average, every 2 minutes, whereas a person with diabetes is diagnosed with heart disease, on average, every 80 seconds. Those living with diabetes, Brown said, are twice as likely to develop heart disease compared with those without diabetes.

“This isn’t a problem. It truly is an epidemic,” Brown said. “Epidemics of this proportion require us to think differently, collaborate differently and partner in new and different ways. That is why I am so excited about this partnership. This is about saving lives.”

In a recent Harris Poll survey of adults with type 2 diabetes aged at least 45 years, only about half of those surveyed recognized their risk or discussed their increased risk for myocardial infarction or stroke with a health care provider, according to the ADA.

Incorporating new science

The unawareness of personal risk burden among many of those with diabetes spurred the need for a new partnership, according to William T. Cefalu, MD, chief scientific, medical and mission officer for the ADA.

“What is exciting to me is that science is driving this initiative,” Cefalu said during the luncheon. “Everything we are doing to promote awareness is going to be based on the science.”


In an updated joint consensus report released in October and reported by Endocrine Today, the ADA and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes said providers should prioritize patient-centered care for type 2 diabetes that incorporates therapy regimens tailored to specific patient goals, whereas new medications shown to reduce CV risk should be introduced earlier for high-risk patients. The updated guideline, Cefalu said, includes new evidence published between 2014 and February 2018, including studies that examined the effectiveness or safety of pharmacologic or nonpharmacologic interventions in adults with type 2 diabetes.

Still, even with more agents proven to reduce CV risk in diabetes, “the [risk] burden is equally as high today as it has ever been,” Cefalu said.

There is now a “paradigm shift” taking place that puts patients at the center of care to optimize their quality of life, he said.

“It’s about shared decision-making with the patient, understanding what their risk factors are,” Cefalu said. “Now, we [risk] stratify even further, by atherosclerotic disease, by heart failure and kidney disease.”

Recognizing diabetes distress

In September, ADA and AHA conducted focus groups with people with type 2 diabetes, Brown said. Those participants, she added, spoke of their distress related to the day-to-day management of the disease, as well as feelings of hopelessness. That, in turn, can make it less likely those people will take steps to reduce their CV risk burden.

“The public health impact and growing threat of diabetes and cardiovascular disease are too significant for any one organization to tackle alone,” said Nancy A. Brown, CEO of AHA, said in a press release. “Our collaboration with the American Diabetes Association and industry supporters is crucial for developing meaningful solutions and offering practical tools and information that can help those living with type 2 diabetes find inspiration and take action toward improving their health and decreasing their risk of heart disease.”

In the release, the organizations announced two new programs under the Know Diabetes by Heart initiative, including the introductory episode of the “Ask the Expert” series beginning Nov. 14 at 2 p.m. EST, featuring Joan Bardsley MBA, RN, CDE, FAADE, assistant vice president of nursing and research integration for MedStar Health Research Institute and MedStar Corporate Nursing. Those interested in participating in the free event can visit or call 855-565-0595 for more information.


Additionally, a 12-month Living with Type 2 Diabetes program will include six digital, printable “journeys” to improve understanding on how to live well with type 2 diabetes, including reducing the risk for MI and stroke, according to the two organizations. The program also includes a monthly e-newsletter and six free issues of Diabetes Forecast. – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosures: Boehringer Ingelheim, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi are founding sponsors of the Know Diabetes by Heart initiative. Tracey Brown is CEO of the ADA. Nancy Brown is CEO of the AHA. Cefalu is chief scientific, medical and mission officer for the ADA.