Q&A with Washington Mystics’ Alana Beard

A Washington Mystics player talks about promoting diabetes awareness, her grandfather's experience with type 2 diabetes, and her own obsession with Bikram yoga

As campaign ambassador for Dribble to Stop Diabetes, Washington Mystic Alana Beard hopes to raise awareness about the disease that affects 26 million people nationwide. Photograph courtesy of NBA Photos/Getty Images

Alana Beard is a star Washington Mystics guard and forward, but by the time the season ends in September, she’ll be dribbling toward a new role. The team’s top scorer is now campaign ambassador for Dribble to Stop Diabetes, an alliance of the NBA, WBNA, NBA Development League, American Diabetes Association, and Sanofi-Aventis, created to raise awareness for diabetes. From the Victory over Diabetes awareness event at the Convention Center tomorrow from 10 AM to 3 PM to various events held nationwide, Dribble to Stop Diabetes is on a mission to let people know that diabetes can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle. Beard tells The Washingtonian why she decided to become a spokesperson for the campaign—along with Chris Dudley and Walt “Clyde” Frazier—and what she’s learned about the disease that affects both her on family and 26 million people in the United States.

You were approached by Dribble to Stop Diabetes to be a campaign ambassador, but you yourself do not have diabetes. Why did you decide to get involved with Dribble to Stop Diabetes?
Well, it does run within my family. When I was approached, I started to do more research within my family. It came back to me that my grandfather had type 2 diabetes and my grandmother had the trait. So I felt that it was something I should get involved with to help people become more aware about diabetes.

You didn’t know that your grandfather suffered from diabetes when you were growing up?
I did not. At a young age, I just didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand what my grandparents were going through and it was because I wasn’t informed.

That’s the sole purpose of the campaign: to continue to make people aware and inform them. When you are informed and do have the information, you can act. When you don’t, there’s not very much you can do.

Since getting involved with Dribble to Stop Diabetes, what sort of things have you learned about the disease that you didn’t know before?
I didn’t know there were two types of diabetes. With type 1, your body just doesn’t produce the insulin that you need to function. That’s a very rare form; about 5 to 7 percent of people with diabetes are diagnosed with it. Type 2 diabetes is the most common. Your body produces insulin, but it doesn’t use it in the proper manner. Also, I didn’t know nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes.

What are some things Dribble to Stop Diabetes is doing as part of its diabetes awareness campaign?
They’re creating a vehicle for the NBA, WNBA, and NBA Development League fans to become more aware, and to get them to understand how to live a healthy lifestyle. We have a public service announcement that’s running right now, and we have, obviously, the advertisement at the games.

Here in DC, they’re doing a Victory Over Diabetes campaign that’s reaching out to a lot of Latinos and African Americans to get educated. The event is happening this Saturday at the Convention Center.

What are some of your own favorite types of workouts to do besides basketball to stay healthy and in shape?
I’m the type of person who likes to try different things. The one thing I’m doing now is Bikram yoga. It may sound easy, but believe me, it’s not by any means. I walk out every single day that I take a class feeling amazing. I am dead tired, but my body is loose and I feel stretched. After a long night, I feel cleansed.

The other thing I will take up after season is bike riding. I’ve bought a bike and haven’t had a chance to get on it. So as soon as the season is over I’ll jump on that. And within the next week, I’m going to take swimming lessons because I don’t know how to swim.

Where are some of your favorite places to workout in Washington?
I haven’t had a chance to workout much outside of the Verizon Center because we practice there every day. But when I can, I like to workout in Bowie, in my neighborhood. There’s a swimming pool right across the street from me. I’ll do pool workouts, but I’ll have a floatie on. After the season ends I’ll take in the scenery and ride around my neighborhood in Bowie.

What kind of advice do you have for people who live with diabetes and want to continue or begin to lead a healthy lifestyle?
I think the most important thing is to get the knowledge and become informed about diabetes. It’s very important to make sure you live an active, healthy lifestyle. But, those are just the first two things to do to jump start information about the disease.

For more information on diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association’s Web site and Dribble to Stop Diabetes. To register for the Victory Over Diabetes event this weekend at the convention center, click here.

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