GRAMMY Award-winning music producer and American Idol judge Randy Jackson was 350 pounds and severely out of shape when he got some shocking news back in 2003: He had Type 2 diabetes. “I didn’t even know I had it until I wound up in the emergency room,” he says.

Nine years later Jackson has lowered his weight significantly and has adopted a healthier lifestyle. He recently partnered with Merck on the Taking Diabetes to Heart program to promote awareness about the disease.

Jackson spoke with about living with diabetes, eating healthier (even when visiting New Orleans) and why the African-American community is most affected. Your family had a history of diabetes, but you never imagined getting it.

RANDY JACKSON: My dad had it but I thought, ‘Nah, that’ll never happen to me.” What do you think are the greatest misconceptions about diabetes?

JACKSON: I think the misconception is that there is a cure. You have it for the rest of your life, and there is no cure. I also think there’s not enough information out there readily at hand. Misconception or truth: Anyone who likes a lot of sugar is prone to getting diabetes.

JACKSON: That, or you like carbohydrates. They they turn into sugar too. It’s just obsessive eating of any kind. I was 350 pounds when I was diagnosed. Anybody at that high level of weight has to really check for it. You can never be too sure. I was one that never went to the doctor — I only went every two years or when something was wrong. What advice do you have for anyone who’s feeling like they’re in danger?

JACKSON: I stress just move, man. If you don’t have the money, don’t join a gym, just start walking. Fortunately our food is amazingly talented in the African American community, but unfortunately it’s got a ton of butter and sugar on vetting. I want to stress it so hard because these are my people, dude, and I’ve got diabetes. What does living with diabetes mean for you?

JACKSON: It means being very conscious about what I’m putting into my body and how much I move and the stress of my lifestyle.

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