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In 2003, Randy Jackson, host of American Idol, thought he came down with some sort of flu. “I just felt awful — I was perspiring and felt really lethargic,” says Jackson.

Turns out, after symptoms lingered, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. And while Jackson wasn’t shocked by his diagnosis (“I grew up Louisiana, so my diet was rich southern fried foods,” he says), Jackson was surprised the same disease that affected his father also could impact him.

Since his diagnosis, Jackson has really put into play some serious lifestyle changes (like eating more nutritious foods), so in honor of National Diabetes Month, he is teaming up with the “Taking Diabetes to Heart” campaign (a Merck program), in the hopes of helping those with type 2 diabetes learn how deal with the disease in a healthy way. Here, Jackson’s tips.

Don’t shy away from the doc:
“Like a lot a men, I wasn’t going to the doctor's very often,” says Jackson. But after his diagnosis, Jackson stepped it up, and made regular appointments to keep tabs on his blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

Start working out slowly:
When Jackson was first diagnosed, he was around 350 pounds, and would occasionally exercise — at most 30 minutes a week. But after his doctor told him he needed to get more active, Jackson started walking — even just 10 minutes — and adding on a few more minutes each day. “I needed to start with something I could do that was simple,” says Jackson, who now regularly goes to the gym.

Know you have to make those changes:
“As soon as I was diagnosed, I learned a lot about the disease really fast,” says Jackson. He found out there are a lot of other health issues linked with diabetes, like heart disease, blindness, and nerve damage. “I realized a lot of things that can happen if you don’t manage it, which is why I encourage everyone to do so,” says Jackson.