Musician, producer and “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson is serious about music – and his health.

Jackson, a well-known bass guitarist in musical circles, played with many musical legends, including jazz violinist Jean Luc Ponty and the pop-rock band Journey. As a producer, he helped create hits for Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.

And he worked equally as hard taking care of his health after doctors told him in 2003 that he had type 2 diabetes.

“When I was diagnosed with diabetes, my doctors told me that people with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke,” Jackson told The Philadelphia Business Journal. “This was all I needed to know to take my diabetes to heart. I made changes to my lifestyle and worked with my doctors to set goals for my blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.”

He also decided his celebrity could call attention to the disease and encourage others to pay more attention to their health as well.

So Jackson has teamed up with pharmaceutical company Merck and its “Take Diabetes to Heart” campaign, touring the country to share his experience with type 2 diabetes and educate others about its serious, related complications, including heart disease.

The Merck program also was designed to provide resources to help people start taking steps to improving their health.

African Americans are 1.4 times more likely to develop diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. In the 65-74 age group, the risk is two-fold.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has launched an African American Initiative is focused on prevention and working with youth to make better food choices.

The program aims to help students make healthier choices and make the connection to staying healthier longer.

For instance, patients are given recommendations on alternative recipes for such dishes as collard greens and meats, so that they are not denying themselves traditional foods, but preparing them in healthier ways.

The ADA campaign also focuses on weight and weight-loss programs. For an overweight patient, losing as much as 10 to 20 percent of body mass can have a dramatic effect on the development and extent of diabetes.

In an interview with the National Institutes of Health newsletter, Jackson said he was aware of a family history of diabetes, but was still taken by surprise when he received the diagnosis in his mid-40s and never thought diabetes might be linked to his feeling tired and dehydrated at the time.

The news forced him to reevaluate his lifestyle.

“It was hard to change my eating habits because food for me is emotional—I often found comfort in eating food that happened to be unhealthy,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s doctor helped him develop a plan of diet and exercise and he underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2004 helped him to shed over 100 pounds, which he has managed to keep off.

“Today, I know that regular checkups with a doctor, healthy food choices, and an active lifestyle are extremely important for managing type 2 diabetes. There is no magic cure, and it’s not always easy. But I believe everyone has the potential to take charge and manage the disease in his or her own way. I am living proof that type 2 diabetes can be managed. In fact, taking charge of my lifestyle and making a change to be healthier has made me a stronger, happier person.”

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