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Award-Winning Actress S. Epatha Merkerson And Merck Challenge African Americans With Type 2 Diabetes To Get To Their Goals

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J., June 26, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and actress S. Epatha Merkerson are bringing the America's Diabetes Challenge: Get to Your Goals program to Washington, D.C. to encourage African Americans with type 2 diabetes to know their A1C -- their average blood sugar level over the past two to three months -- and talk to their doctors about setting and attaining a personal A1C goal. Merkerson, one of the 4.9 million African-American adults living with type 2 diabetes, will attend the American Diabetes Association's Live Empowered event in Washington, D.C. at the Kreeger Theater at Arena Stage on June 26 to share her story.

America's Diabetes Challenge: Get To Your Goals

For many people with diabetes, it is recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) that they have an A1C of less than 7 percent to help reduce the risk of complications. For certain individuals, a higher or lower A1C may be more appropriate, which is why it is important for people with diabetes to speak with their health care providers to discuss the A1C goal that is right for them. Nearly half of people with diabetes have an A1C greater than 7 percent.

Merkerson was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2003 after having her blood sugar tested at a health fair event and being urged to see her doctor. Despite having a family history of the disease, Merkerson was unaware she had type 2 diabetes. After her diagnosis, Merkerson became serious about her health and worked with her doctor to establish her own A1C goal and develop a personalized diabetes management plan, which included diet, exercise and medication to help her achieve that goal. By sticking to that plan -- and making changes with her doctor when necessary -- Merkerson has kept her blood sugar under control.  

 "I lost my father and grandmother to complications of type 2 diabetes," says Merkerson, "so I learned firsthand how important it is to know your A1C and make a commitment to get to your goal. That's why I'm excited to work with Merck on America's Diabetes Challenge to help urge African Americans to learn about proper blood sugar management and inspire them to set and attain their own A1C goal."

Type 2 diabetes is a significant health concern in the African-American community. In fact, nearly 20 percent of the adult African-American population has diabetes. Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death in the community. Nearly 9 percent (age-adjusted) of the population of Washington, D.C. has diabetes , and the African-American community comprises about 50 percent of the city's population.

"Many people with type 2 diabetes do not realize that high blood sugar levels over time can lead to serious long-term health problems," said David A. Charles, MD, Internal Medicine and Dermatology, Rockville, Maryland. "Meal planning, exercise, and medication, when prescribed, are all important to help people reach their A1C goal. Because diabetes is a progressive disease, sometimes adjustments to the treatment plan are necessary. America's Diabetes Challenge will help inform African Americans with diabetes in Washington, D.C. about the importance of working with their doctors to create an individualized treatment plan that is right for them, then track the progress and adjust the plan, if needed, to help them get to their A1C goal."

Most people with diabetes are aware of the importance of controlling high blood sugar, but it's also important for them to understand why blood sugar can sometimes go too low. For people on certain diabetes medications, low blood sugar can be caused by skipping meals or excessive exercise and can make you feel shaky, dizzy, sweaty, hungry, and sometimes, faint. Make sure your doctor explains the signs and symptoms of high and low blood sugar to you and let him or her know if you are experiencing any of those symptoms.

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