Press release

New Voices Chosen to Elevate the Link between Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease and Stroke

November 16, 2020 | Arlington, Virginia

The American Heart Association® and American Diabetes Association’s® Know Diabetes by Heart™ initiative reveals new ambassador class during American Diabetes Month®

Seven individuals living with type 2 diabetes and representing a wide range of experiences have been selected as the 2020-21 national ambassadors for Know Diabetes by Heart—a joint effort between the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association to combat cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death for people with type 2 diabetes.

Compared to people without diabetes, people living with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop and die from cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks, heart failure and stroke,1,2,3 yet only about half of them age 45 and older understand their increased risk or have discussed it with their doctor.4  Furthermore, diabetes and heart disease are two pre-existing medical conditions contributing to increased risk of severe illness from COVID-195, making disease management and preventative health more essential than ever.

Representing diverse backgrounds and geographies, the new Know Diabetes by Heart ambassadors were chosen following a nationwide search for inspiring people with relatable type 2 diabetes health journeys. The volunteers will use their stories and experiences to inspire, educate and empower others living with type 2 diabetes, and share their perspectives with health care professionals to help improve patient/provider communication. 

“Hearing how our ambassadors are triumphing over their obstacles shows others living with type 2 diabetes they can claim their second chance, too,” said Angela Bassett, Golden Globe Award-winning Academy Award-nominated actress and Know Diabetes by Heart national spokesperson. “I’ve experienced diabetes through my family members, including my beautiful mother who passed before her time. What my family has learned is that you can thrive with diabetes, but you have to claim it. A good way to get started is by talking with your health care provider about managing your risk for heart disease and stroke at your next appointment.”

The 2020-21 Know Diabetes by Heart Ambassadors are:

  • Lupe Barraza (Plano, TX) – Lupe, 45, has overcome uncertainty with restored confidence, removing barriers that kept her from managing her type 2 diabetes to claim her second chance at the life of her dreams.
  • Sarah Bryant (Elgin, SC) – When Sarah, 56, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after losing her husband to heart complications from the same condition, she vowed to fight back.
  • Karen Dawson (Victorville, CA) – Karen, 60, a health care professional, knew she could thrive with type 2 diabetes if she managed it well. Then circumstances interfered with her medication plan and she suffered a stroke. 
  • Jane DeMeis (Fairport, NY) – Refusing to surrender to a trio of potentially debilitating chronic conditions, Jane, 66, surrounded herself with experts—then became a patient advocate to help people like her. 
  • Joey McGrath (Raleigh, NC) – Joey, 49, has had more than his share of type 2 diabetes complications. But then came the stunner: an out-of-the-blue, life-threatening diagnosis with end-stage kidney disease.
  • Annette Lartigue (Trenton, NJ) – Changes in her vision and her father’s sudden death from a heart attack prompted Annette, 62, to get serious about controlling her type 2 diabetes.
  • Anthony Wilson (Virginia Beach, VA) – Anthony, 52, had long known about a condition that caused his heart to race, but the EMS professional was unaware of his type 2 diabetes until the day he nearly died.  

Know Diabetes by Heart is made possible with support from founding sponsors, the Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly and Company Diabetes Alliance, and Novo Nordisk, and national sponsors, Sanofi, AstraZeneca and Bayer. To read more about the new ambassadors, go to  

For Media Inquiries:
American Heart Association – Jayme Sandberg: 214-706-2169;
American Diabetes Association – Daisy Diaz: 703-253-4807;   

For Public Inquiries:
1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721) and
1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or (emails to:

[1] Kannel WB, McGee DL. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease: the Framingham study. JAMA. 1979;241:2035–2038.

[2] Gottdiener JS, Arnold AM, Aurigemma GP, Polak JF, Tracy RP, Kitzman DW, Gardin JM, Rutledge JE, Boineau RC. Predictors of congestive heart failure in the elderly: the Cardiovascular Health Study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2000;35:1628–1637.

[3] Impact of diabetes on outcomes in patients with low and preserved ejection fraction heart failure: an analysis of the Candesartan in Heart failure: Assessment of Reduction in Mortality and morbidity (CHARM) programme.

[4] American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association. 2018. People with T2D Baseline Survey. Online survey; USA. Conducted by The Harris Poll in September 2018.

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. November 2020. “People with Certain Medical Conditions”. CDC Coronavirus Disease website: Accessed November 10, 2020.


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About Know Diabetes by Heart™
The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association launched the collaborative landmark initiative called Know Diabetes by Heart™ to comprehensively combat the national public health impact of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Through Know Diabetes by Heart™, the leading nonprofit associations, with founding sponsors the Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly and Company Diabetes Alliance, and Novo Nordisk, and national sponsors Sanofi, AstraZeneca and Bayer are focused on positively empowering people living with type 2 diabetes to better manage their risk for cardiovascular disease such as, heart attacks, strokes and heart failure, and supporting health care providers in educating and treating people living with type 2 diabetes to reduce their cardiovascular risk. Visit for resources.

About the American Diabetes Association
Every day more than 4,000 people are newly diagnosed with diabetes in America. More than 122 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes and are striving to manage their lives while living with the disease. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is the nation’s leading voluntary health organization fighting to bend the curve on the diabetes epidemic and help people living with diabetes thrive. For 80 years the ADA has been driving discovery and research to treat, manage and prevent diabetes, while working relentlessly for a cure. We help people with diabetes thrive by fighting for their rights and developing programs, advocacy and education designed to improve their quality of life. Diabetes has brought us together. What we do next will make us Connected for Life. To learn more or to get involved, visit us at or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383). Join the fight with us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn) and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn).

About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.