James Earl Jones is moving to the front lines of America’s ongoing diabetes epidemic.
The award-winning actor has teamed up with Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, to help Americans manage their type 2 diabetes via ICanImagine.com. Through the site, visitors can take an interactive quiz to discover behavioral traits that can help them take control of their condition.
For Jones, living with the chronic disease — which affects the way the body processes blood sugar — for over 20 years was a leading factor to share his personal testimony publicly for the first time.
“I’m aware of the mission we all have of living well with it. I will always be a diabetic, but there is a way to live well with it, there’s a way to live with it so I can keep working,” Jones said during an interview with The Huffington Post. “I’m 85, but I can still work. I can still do eight [Broadway] shows a week in theater. And I love that. I love still being active in my life. But it’s more important that I address diabetes, because I will always be a diabetic.”
Following his diagnosis in the early 90s, Jones says he enrolled in a rigid program to address his weight and diet. The legendary actor also worked on a type 2 diabetes treatment plan with doctors to help lower his blood sugar levels.
Despite his initial “shock” to his type 2 diabetes diagnosis, Jones added that he was “fortunate” to address his health early on.
“I knew certain ethnic groups were at risk for type-2 diabetes,” he said. “Older people are at risk, my mother had it. So I should’ve been alerted, but no. One thing I thought was, ‘It’s never gonna happen to me.’ So when it was discovered, it was by accident. And I feel lucky.”
According to American Diabetes Association, 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. Among them, Native Americans, Hispanics, African-Americans and Asian-Americans are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than other ethnic groups. The health association cites lifestyle changes, oral medications and insulin as ways of managing the disease.
“Like any chronic disease, there are a lot of myths out there. One of the myths is that you can cure your diabetes if you just eat right and exercise enough,” Dr. Anderson noted to HuffPost. “I wish that were true. You can’t cure diabetes, but you can certainly put your diabetes into good control with both your lifestyle habits and a combination of medications from your provider and your physician.”
Adding to Dr. Anderson’s point, Jones wants more people to “be aware that you’re at risk” and to know “that there are doctors available” to help manage the disease.
“I would certainly like to encourage more screenings,” Jones said. “You won’t ever make it go away, but you can make it better.”
For more tips on how to manage diabetes, click here.