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Health Team

American Idol Judge: Diabetes 'Can Happen to You'

Posted March 19, 2008 1:27 p.m. EDT
Updated October 27, 2013 8:00 p.m. EDT

— "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson visited North Carolina – not to find musical talent, but to warn people about diabetes.

“Listen, it can happen to you just as it happened to me. I didn’t know I had it,” Jackson said in an interview Monday with the WRAL Health Team's Dr. Allen Mask.

Jackson's visit was part of a media tour with the American Heart Association to raise awareness about Type 2 diabetes, which Jackson has.

The Grammy award-winning producer and musician has a family history of diabetes. He grew up in Louisiana with unhealthy eating habits that lead to obesity. In part, he said, he blames Southern-style cooking.

“With as much sugar and salt as consumed, and in butter, at some point the body’s going to say, ‘Enough! Come on, stop this!. Stop the insanity,’” he said.

In 2001, Jackson experienced unusual fatigue, a fever and frequent urination, so he saw a doctor.

“You know, (I) found out I had Type 2 diabetes and had had it for about a year. Whoa!” he said.

Being overweight places people at greater risk for diabetes. After several failed diets, Jackson turned to gastric bypass surgery five years ago and lost more than 100 pounds.

“It's very risky surgery. It's a last-ditch effort, and it was a Godsend for me,” he said.

Though he hates the word "exercise,” Jackson said he does use a treadmill and finds other fun ways to stay active.

“A kid is outside playing for four, five hours all day, the whole thing, and (doesn’t) even know that that's called 'exercise.' But as soon as you say to somebody, ‘Exercise for an hour,’ that whole thing changes, doesn't it?”

Jackson was diagnosed with diabetes at age 44, but there is an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes among children and young adults, according to Mask.

“Prevention needs to start in the home and at schools,” Mask said. “Parents need to help their children establish healthy diets and regular play time or exercise.”

There is an epidemic of adolescents developing diabetes, mostly centered around obesity. African-Americans also have a higher incidence of the disease, Mask said.

Over 13 percent of African-Americans have diabetes and 25 percent of people between 65 and 75 have it. They are also two and a half times more likely to develop the kidney disease associated with diabetes.

A simple blood-sugar test is all that is needed to get checked for diabetes.