You've been thinking -- confess -- that you could stand to drop a few pounds. Or maybe hit the treadmill. Or quit smoking. But how far gone are you, really? Diabetes Personal Health Decisions (, a new interactive Web site from the American Diabetes Association, can tell you, by showing just how a change or two can affect your health over the long haul.

How It Works To create the most accurate profile, use results from your last medical checkup to answer questions about your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and fasting glucose. You'll also need your age, weight, health history and any medications you take for diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol. After entering all the information, you can wait 10 minutes or so for the system to compute your disease odds (rendered as a percentage chance you'll develop diabetes or have a heart attack or stroke over the next 30 years) or have the news e-mailed to you. People with diabetes can also learn their risk for complications such as kidney failure, eye problems or foot problems. Click through the different tabs to drill down further -- for example, to learn your risk of having a heart attack over the next five years.

Change Is Good Once you have the good -- or bad -- news, you can discover how changes could affect your outlook. I learned that losing 20 pounds would cut my risk of diabetes by 25 percent but my risk of heart attack by only 10 percent. But if I also took a baby aspirin daily, my heart attack risk would drop nearly 30 percent. I plan to do that -- once I get my primary care doc's okay. The reminder not to substitute the risk-calculator's data for medical advice doesn't get enough emphasis on the site.

Experts Say Endocrinologist Michael Dempsey, medical director for Suburban Hospital's diabetes education program, plans to recommend the easy-to-navigate site to patients, particularly those with metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of symptoms that make patients more disease-prone. His only question: "Will they really go home and use it" -- and then apply the advice?

-- Lisa Barrett Mann

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