Doctors consistently warn their patients during checkups of the dangers diabetes poses, but Ahwatukee Foothills resident Dr. Sheila Sudhakar has gone a step further by asking her patients to participate with her in the American Diabetes Association’s “Step Out” walk this Saturday.

Held at Rawhide at Wild Horse Pass, the three-mile walk will increase awareness and knowledge, as well as raise money to find a cure for diabetes.

“As a primary care practitioner, I see lots of patients with diabetes,” Sudhakar, an internal medicine physician at Cigna Medical Group’s Chandler Medical Office, said. “I saw the walk as a good opportunity for me to encourage my patients to start on their own daily exercise routine, which is useful in preventing diabetes.”

This is Sudhakar’s second year of participating in the “Step Out” walk with her patients, and she believes that the walk has helped some of her patients establish exercise routines that keep them healthy.

“My patients and I discuss exercise often, but it’s hard for them to incorporate it into their daily routines,” she said. “The walk is a good way for me to get them started because it’s a morning walk that is not very long or difficult.”

Sudhakar sent letters out to all of her patients asking them to participate in the walk because she knew that some of them would not have an appointment in her office before the walk. To her surprise, she received several responses from the letters.

“One of my patients got the letter and started himself on a walking training program, and he has now built himself up to a 17-minute walk,” Sudhakar said. “He’s hoping that by the time Saturday rolls around he’ll be able to complete the whole 30-minute walk.”

Patient response to Sudhakar’s appeal has been positive and, according to Sudhakar, most of her patients are surprised that she would walk with them.

“I do it because I want my patients to know that I exercise and don’t just tell them to do it,” she said. “I don’t want to push them, but I want them to know that I’m dedicated to helping to them beat diabetes.”

Sudhakar does not have a problem breaking the norm of doctor and patient interaction if it benefits the health of her patients.

“It’s not often that a doctor will walk with her patients, but it’s basically putting in action what I tell them every time they visit my office,” she said.

Last year around 30 of Sudhakar’s patients walked with her, and this year she is hoping for 50 participants. Sudhakar believes that if people are knowledgeable about diabetes they will be able to prevent the disease.

“Obesity and lack of exercise are the main cause of Type 2 diabetes,” she said. “Prevention is easy if people watch their diet and exercise regularly.”

Registration for the walk begins at Rawhide at 7 a.m., and the walk starts at 8 a.m. Rawhide is located at 5700 West North Loop Road, in Chandler.

For more information visit www.stepout.diabetes.org.

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