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Luther Vandross mom fights for diabetes

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Toronto (Reuters): A year after the death of US R&B artist Luther Vandross, his mother is using the release of his greatest hits and a new survey to highlight the dangers of diabetes and urge people to get a medical checkup. Vandross, who won eight Grammy awards and sold 25 million albums, died last year aged 54 due to complications of diabetes. He never fully recovered after suffering a stroke two years earlier. His mother, Mary Ida Vandross, 82, said his death followed that of his father, two of her other four children, and one grandson from diabetes-related complications. Her fourth and last child, a daughter, died after suffering from asthma.

''It is with me daily that my family was taken from me,'' Vandross told Reuters in a telephone interview. ''Diabetes is really dangerous. Just get yourself checked.'' Her appeal coincides with the release of a nationwide survey of 2,000 Americans that found a growing number of adults aged 18 to 40 who are living with or at risk of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a disease caused by genetic factors and often brought on by obesity and lack of exercise. It can lead to a host of problems, including blindness, kidney failure, amputation, heart disease and premature death.

In the last two years, the number of Americans living with diabetes grew 14 percent to 20.8 million people. The Diabetes Aware Generational Survey by Danish insulin maker Novo Nordisk found most people with diabetes know that diet and exercise can help prevent the disease -- but only one in five exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. For Luther Vandross, his diabetes was probably caused by a mixture of genetic factors and lifestyle, his mother said.

Vandross always struggled with health and image problems, losing 100 pounds - several times. At his heaviest he weighed over 300 lbs (136 kg). The latest CD of his hits, The Ultimate Luther Vandross, includes two new songs recorded right before his stroke called ''Shine'' and ''Got You Home.'

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