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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Robert Pitts is the star of the day. Why? Today is the American Diabetes Association's National Alert Day.

Robert's own mother had diabetes and passed away too young, age 68, he said. So he checked on his risk factors and made dramatic changes in his life.

Robert knows he has high risk factors, ones he can't change. For example, he has a strong family history of diabetes and he's an African American.

But two risk factors he could change. One was being overweight and the other was living a sedentary lifestyle.

Over the last three years, Robert said he's lost 110 pounds. He's given up devouring a stack of Oreos at night, drinking sugary sodas, and sitting around too much.

Now he works out at the YMCA five or six times a week. "I actually enjoy working out," he said.

Robert is pleased his daughter is following his inspiration because he knows diabetes is wicked. He knows the disease can cause amputations, blindness, fatal heart problems, and a host of other health conditions that cannot always be turned around if diabetes is caught too late.

However, Robert is proof you can avoid all of that trauma. He knows he was heading down a path to diabetes; in fact, he considered himself "borderline" diabetic.

But now he shows no signs of diabetes. And he feels much better, he said.

Robert is encouraging everyone to take the Risk Assessment test by the ADA. It only takes 60 seconds and you can get free advice at the end of the quiz.

www.diabetes.org/firstcoastrisktest

Amy Bednar with the ADA says too many people have pre-diabetes or diabetes and just don't know it. They may urinate often or feel thirsty, two classic signs, and not have any idea it could indicate diabetes.

As for Robert, he feels as if he's carrying the wonderful spirit of his mother as he's making changes in his lifestyle. He said she always taught him that he can do anything he wants. And, although losing more than 100 pounds is a tough challenge, he's discovered his mother was right. He can do it.

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