By// Kendra D. Cusic
Thanksgiving is just a day away and many of us can’t wait for the mouthwatering turkey and sweet candied yams. But before you pile your plate sky high with your favorite soul food selections, be aware that you may be one bite away from a diabetes diagnosis. For American Idol judge Randy Jackson, this story is all too familiar. The Grammy Award-winning music producer sat down with JETmag.com to talk about his diagnosis and how he’s helping people take diabetes to heart.
JET: You were diagnosed with diabetes in 2003, how was your lifestyle before diabetes?
Jackson: My lifestyle before was pretty crazy. I grew up in Louisiana in the lovable South, in Baton Rouge, and I ate everything I wanted to eat. Eating was a huge part of my life. Food is like king and queen down there, as I like to say. I was in the worst shape of my life–I was 350 pounds–living a pretty stationary lifestyle and I wasn’t eating right, of course. It ran in my family; my dad had type 2 diabetes, but you always think it can happen to someone else and not to you.
JET: Was the news a shock for you?
Jackson: So I was shocked when I ended up in the ER and I realized I had type 2 diabetes after thinking I had a cold or the flu. It shouldn’t take something that you can’t cure, to stop you in your tracks and get you to wake up and take better care of yourself. But that’s what happened to me.
JET: What do you think is the biggest barrier African Americans face regarding getting diabetes treated?
Jackson: It’s the diet, the exercise and the fear of going to the doctor! Go to the doctor twice a year, at least, know your numbers, get the test run and get checked. Really watch that diet. We’re used to having that family gathering and the food is just layered in butter, salt and sugar. I know because I come from the South; it’s not called “good for you” it’s called “good eatin’.” They don’t even think about the calories. They look at you and say, “Boy you must be eating good, you got a belly on you!” It’s time for that belly to go away.
JET: Why did you decide to use Merck pharmaceutical company as your platform to get your message out?
Jackson: Merck’s Taking Diabetes to Heart program is a great awareness campaign with a shared goal of getting the message out about how deadly this disease is. For me, I just wanted to pay that forward because I don’t think people know; I didn’t know I had it. To me it’s like a lifesaver.
JET: What can people do to make this organization successful?
Jackson: Well they can log on to the website for sure, which is takingdiabetestoheart.com, there’s a lot of helpful information on there. It’s a great place for those of us with the disease, or for those who think they may have it, to log on and really know your ABCs of diabetes. Now I stress to people to get with their doctor and get to know the A1c blood sugar, the long-acting blood sugar, the blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. Those numbers are vital in terms of knowing and controlling your type 2 diabetes. What people don’t realize is that people with type 2 diabetes have two to four times higher risk to develop heart disease or stroke and there’s tons of other things; it’s a deadly disease.