Living with diabetics

My Life

The American Idol judge wants to shine a spotlight on preventing type 2 diabetes and improving heart health.

By Steven Petrow, founding editorial director, Everyday Health

A 20-year veteran of the music industry, Randy Jackson is a successful producer who has worked with such megastars as Mariah Carey, Elton John, Whitney Houston, and a host of other A-list talents. He also has several Grammy Awards under his belt. He is best known to international audiences, however, for his role as a judge on American Idol, the popular reality singing competition on the FOX network.

Despite all this professional success, the spotlight almost dimmed on Jackson when he became severely overweight and was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1999. He’s since dropped the pounds, and his health is under control — and now, he’s become a man on a mission to get the rest of us to improve how we eat and how much we exercise.

Jackson wants us to know that of the nearly 21 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, nearly two-thirds of them will die from a heart attack or stroke. “What’s … amazing is that more people probably know who Kelly Clarkson is [the winner of American Idol’s first season] than realize that diabetes is connected to cardiovascular disease and stroke,” he writes in his new book, Body With Soul: Slash Sugar, Cut Cholesterol, and Get a Jump on Your Best Health Ever (Hudson Street Press/Penguin). The book, a unique memoir that features a “new-you” wellness program, is a big part of his plan to help others and raise awareness of type 2 diabetes. He also has taken on a new role as spokesman for the American Heart Association’s “The Heart of Diabetes” campaign.

In the middle of preparations for the ninth season on the show, Jackson sat down for a chat with Everyday Health about his new book, his personal struggle with type 2 diabetes, and the physical and mental changes he’s had to make for the sake of his health.

Everyday Health: Finding out that you had type 2 diabetes came as a shock to you. What happened?

Randy Jackson: One-third of diabetics don’t even know they have the disease, and I was one of them. I was feeling really, really ill. I thought I had a cold. I was sweaty, dizzy, thirsty, and I just wasn’t feeling like myself. Two weeks went by like this. Finally, I called my doctor, and he said I should go to the ER. Once there, I found out that my blood sugar was over 500 [mg/dL]. Normal blood sugar readings are in the 100s, so mine was five times that! It was a huge shock to me. I thought to myself, this kind of thing only happens to other people — not me, dude. But I was hugely overweight — about 350 pounds. Both my parents had had the disease, and I wasn’t managing my diet at all.

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