Elliott talks health

By on June 30, 2008
Photo © Martin Hladik
Diabetes is on the rise. Did you know that as of 2006, there are over 18.7 million diabetic people in Japan? That’s about a 15% increase in four years, and the numbers are even higher in other countries. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder, wherein those affected have a pancreas that produces little to no insulin to deliver glucose from food into their cells. In short, the body cannot get the fuel it needs to support itself. A popular misconception is that diabetes will only affect certain individuals. The truth is that the disorder can befall anybody, despite age or body size.

Elliott Yamin speaks to Tokyo Families about his experience with diabetes.

How old were you when you were first diagnosed with type-1 diabetes?

I was the tender age of sixteen.

How did you deal with it at that age?

I didn’t…. that was my problem. I was pretty angry, I was in denial. I didn’t want to accept it, you know? So I wanted to spite everybody, including myself, and I just didn’t want to take care of myself. I didn’t want to take responsibility, and I got very sick. I learned very abruptly that it’s important to take your insulin when you should, and check your blood sugar.

What are you using now to check your blood sugar?

I just use the OneTouch UltraMini, a LifeScan product.

I thought I read somewhere that you were using a pump?

I am, I’m using a pump, but it doesn’t read my blood sugar.

Okay, so just a MiniMed or something?

Yeah, a MiniMed called Paradigm.

That’s a pretty expensive model. Were you using that earlier?

I was using the 508 [MiniMed model from MedTronic] before that, and it was expensive, but my insurance covered most of it. I had insurance through my job at that time. But the Paradigm, I got for free from Mini-Med. It’s kind of [dumb] how when you gain some notoriety and start gaining a little money, things become free. [Laughs.] I don’t really understand that. But, they knew I was doing a lot of advocacy work and diabetes, so I get all my supplies for my pump for free too, so they look out for me.

Would you be surprised to hear that in Japan, you can’t buy a simple blood glucose monitor at your local drug store, or through the Internet? It has to be prescribed by a doctor. You can only purchase it at a clinic or a hospital. 

Is that right? I wonder why that is?

It’s kind of surprising, isn’t it?

It is very surprising. I mean, anyone can walk into a pharmacy in the States and purchase one.

What are some of the other daily challenges you face in managing your diabetes?

When I was younger, I used to overdose a lot. I would take insulin just because of how I felt, as opposed to testing my blood sugar first. A lot of times, I would take insulin and I’d cover it with food. Other times, I would pass out or have seizures. I’ve had many seizures before, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had one. The main challenge was just matching my diet with my insulin regimen. You have to be very disciplined, and I’ve never been too disciplined with anything, really.

Did you have any diabetic complications, problems, or challenges while doing American Idol?

No. Well, there was just one incident during Hollywood Week. We were supposed to go on film… they were filming us dancing around when they picked the top 24. They have a segment where they introduced the top 24 to you: the 12 guys, and the 12 girls. Just before we were to go in and tape our little segment for our introduction, I felt my blood sugar get really low. But everybody, the entire staff, they were really accommodating, and they were aware of my diabetes, and everybody helped. Somebody ran and grabbed me a couple of orange juices, and I was able to correct it in time. I was fine. But no, it never affected my performances or anything like that.

Did you share any diabetes-related tips with Randy Jackson?

No, I didn’t. Why? Is he a diabetic?


Oh, I didn’t know that! I didn’t know he was a diabetic.

You were talking earlier about your advocacy for diabetes. What other specific causes do you advocate?

You know, I’ve been working, doing a lot of events for Eli [Lilly] lately. Also LifeScan, and MedTronic as well. Between those three, aside from the JDRF [Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation] and the ADA [American Diabetes Association], those particular companies, I’ve done a lot of work with of course, the Children’s Congress: the Promise to Remember Me Campaign. Last year, we went to Capitol Hill and lobbied with all the congressmen and women there to ask them to extend the special diabetes program within this big medical bill that they were going to discontinue. We kind of strategically planned out what congressmen and women we were gonna recruit, and did some research as far as who has ties to diabetes and so forth. I went and set up meeting with them, walked around, shook a lot of hands, and shared my story with them. I expressed to them how important this particular bill was, and [it] needed to stay in place. Things like that. I go to a lot of diabetes camps, and talk to young kids, stressing the importance of testing your blood sugar all the time, as frequent as possible. I like to drive home the fact to never give up on whatever it is you strive to do and be. I think my story and what I get to do today is a prime example that life is limitless, no matter what. No matter what kind of diabetes you have: type 1, type 2. I’d just like to be an example.

That’s a wonderful message for them. Thank you.

Thank you!

James H. Nakagawa is the CEO and founder of Mobile Healthcare Inc. a Japanese corporation that is revolutionizing the healthcare industry by providing real-time mobile solutions in areas of chronic and lifestyle disease management. The company’s product, Lifewatcher, allows easy-to-use, real-time access for patient/doctor to their health record, medical history, daily medications and nutritional intakes and other key health indicators.

About James H. Nakagawa