Robin Arzón Champions Early Screening for Type 1 Diabetes: A Call to Action

While type 1 diabetes (T1D) is currently not preventable or curable and we still do not know its exact cause, incredible advances in medical technology and science have made screening for markers of the condition easier than ever before. 

We sat down with world-renowned ultramarathoner, author, Head Instructor and Vice President of Fitness Programming at Peloton, and idol in the diabetes community Robin Arzón to learn more about her T1D journey and why she advocates for early screening for the condition. 

Robin Arzón holding a jacket over her shoulder and looking at the camera

Robin Arzón, Vice President of Fitness Programming and Head Instructor at Peloton and Founder of Swagger Society. Photo credit: James Farrell.

Key Points:

  • A simple blood test now widely available can detect T1D in its early stages, often before symptoms appear.
  • Early detection of T1D markers can prevent the onset of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a potentially life-threatening complication that up to 40 percent of new T1D diagnoses face at the onset.
  • Robin Arzón, a renowned ultramarathon runner and T1D advocate, shares her journey with T1D and emphasizes the importance of early screening to manage the disease proactively.

Diabetes autoantibody screening, a simple blood test now available at numerous labs across the country, can detect T1D in its initial stages — sometimes months or even years before symptoms develop.

Studies show that up to 40 percent of new-onset T1D diagnoses are made when the individual is already experiencing DKA, a serious and potentially life-threatening complication that results from high blood sugar levels. In those cases, 38.8 percent of the children with DKA had been seen at least once by a doctor before their diagnosis.

This is why early detection of the markers of T1D is so important. This way, if people test positive, they can monitor for symptoms and receive a diagnosis before ever going into DKA.

Read more about DKA in: What Is Diabetic Ketoacidosis? and How to Avoid Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).

Table of Contents

What’s your T1D diagnosis story? 

Unlike many people with T1D, Robin was diagnosed with diabetes as an adult in her early thirties, living and working in New York City. 

She says, “I was just returning from an international trip, but my mom noticed that something was off with me. She’s a doctor, and she encouraged me to see my doctor and get bloodwork to see what was going on.” 

Arzón says that she and her family were in complete shock because, by all accounts, she was an incredibly healthy person previously. She says that getting a T1D diagnosis and learning to navigate a chronic condition while running ultramarathons was a steep learning curve, but it wasn’t impossible. 

“I was lucky to not be diagnosed in DKA, and my diagnosis was made early enough that I could make a plan for my life and to continue my passion for running.” 

She vowed not to let diabetes define her identity, choosing instead to live with the condition without being ruled by it. She saw it as an opportunity to empower herself to pursue her dreams.

In embracing this perspective, she aims to inspire and educate others on the importance of making informed health decisions, including the vital role of early screening for T1D.

Learn more about type 1 diabetes in: Type 1 Diabetes — Symptoms, Diagnosis, Causes, Treatment.

What is The 1 Pledge movement?

Arzón says, “T1D is not preventable but it can be detected early. Even before symptoms arise, you can be screened.”

She continues, “I’m in favor of arming oneself with information. Of having choices. You should own the pen to the story you’re writing.”

Arzón and other well-known figures with T1D are taking The 1 Pledge to encourage others to get screened for diabetes autoantibodies to see if they’re at a higher risk. 

The blood test is simple; most doctor’s offices can run it. For very little time, energy, and money, you can find out if you or a loved one is at increased risk for developing T1D before dangerous complications arise. 

If one of your first-degree relatives (e.g., a parent, sibling, or child) has T1D, you’re eight to 15 times more likely to develop it — and that is why it is so important to get screened if you have a family connection to the condition. 

Why are you involved and why are you passionate about early screening for T1D? 

Arzón says that she’s grateful that she wasn’t diagnosed with T1D while in DKA, and she hopes that by spreading awareness of these improvements in medicine others will be empowered with the knowledge they need to take control of their health.

Early screening for T1D wasn’t available until recently, and people are encouraged to understand their risks and proactively manage their health.

How do we share information about early screening with others? 

Arzón says that you can read more about the pledge on The 1 Pledge website. She continues, “You can also check out the doctor discussion guide so when you go to your doctor’s office you can use your voice to help yourself and your family.” 

She says, “When we don’t have all the information, it can feel disempowering. This can help empower you. And it might be scary, but start before you’re ready, and you’ll see how empowered you actually feel.” 

What do you know now that you wish you knew about at the time of your diagnosis?

Laughing, Arzón says, “So much! There is so much to know! I wish I would have known that I was going to figure it out. I have always focused on what I can control. I wanted a full life! I wanted to have kids, have a career, run marathons, and I am able to do all of that while living with T1D.” 

She continues, “And of course, I wish I knew that there would be lots of snacks.” 

What’s your favorite low snack?

Arzón says, “I usually always have a clementine at the bottom of my bag, and if I’m at home, I love to make a smoothie.” 

Is there anything else you would like to share about life with T1D? 

“I want people to feel unashamed of living with T1D,” Arzón says. “It shouldn’t be a surprise that we’re out here living our amazing lives. We should all be proud of that.” 

Final thoughts

While type 1 diabetes remains a significant health challenge, advances in medical technology have brought us closer than ever to managing it effectively from the earliest stages. 

The availability of diabetes autoantibody screening is a game-changer, allowing for early detection and management strategies that can prevent severe complications like DKA.

Robin Arzón’s story is not just inspiring but also a beacon for the potential of living a full and vibrant life with T1D. 

Her advocacy for The 1 Pledge movement highlights a critical message: knowledge is power. Early screening can transform a diagnosis from a crisis into a manageable aspect of life, enabling people with diabetes to continue pursuing their dreams without pause.


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