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HBO’s Janice Soprano has taken on a new role as a spokesperson for health-awareness.

Emmy-nominated Aida Turturro, known as the Tony’s sister on The Sopranos, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2001.

"It’s scary at first,” Turturro explains. “And it's really a very, very hard disease, because it never ends. So, it can feel overwhelming. But it's not, once you get started dealing with it. And I just want people to know that it's your life, and dealing with it has got to be your priority."

Though the series finale of The Sopranos was taped just a week ago, Turturro has already begun her cross-country tour of diabetes centers and hospital support groups. She is being sponsored by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi Aventis. The company makes Lantus, a once-daily, injectable insulin that Turturro began taking about four years ago.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 21 million children and adults live with the illness. Like Turturro, the majority of diabetics suffer what is sometimes known as insulin resistance, which is trigged by the body’s inability to naturally use insulin to convert sugar and starch into usable energy.

Between 5 percent and 10 percent of diabetics have a type 1 form of diabetes, which results from the body's failure to produce enough insulin in the first place.

Another 54 million Americans are deemed "pre-diabetic," because their blood glucose levels register above normal but below diabetic levels.

Diabetes is associated with obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a sedentary lifestyle and a family history of the disease.

Turturro’s goal is to spread awareness in hopes to shed light on the disease and encourage people to get the care that they need.

"It's actually pretty rampant in my family," Turturro explains. "I have a history of it on both sides -- my mother, my aunt, my grandfather on one side and my grandmother on the other side, and some of my distant relatives, too. But I didn't come from a family who sat me down and explained it, so I had no idea about the risk."

The Sopranos star first spoke out about diabetes three years ago and has been a public health advocate since 2002 when she was the spokesperson for arthritis awareness. She has been battling rheumatoid arthritis since the age of 12.

Turturro insists that she hasn't always been so brave about struggling with disease, but that speaking about it helps her stay in check with her own health. "I'm not the perfect person,” she admits. “So, when I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I was in denial. I started to take an oral medication, but I didn't really take care of myself. It was a stressful time in my life, when my mother and father were both ill and eventually passed."

"But about four years ago, I had a little wake-up call, and I went to my doctor, and she sat me down, and she said to me: 'You're putting yourself at risk. And eventually you're going to develop complications, serious complications, like heart disease and possibly death. But', she explained, 'diabetes can be controlled.' "

Managing diabetes and its risks involves maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and carefully planning meals to prevent the onset of either high blood glucose or low blood glucose.

Regulation of blood sugar levels is also achieved through the use of portable monitoring devices, insulin injections and pumps, and glucose tablets. For type 2 patients, five classes of glucose-lowering diabetes pills are another option for keeping the disease in check.

Turturro warns, "You're not going to make it by living with high blood sugar. It will create havoc.” She explains that, “It's important to go to your doctor, your endocrinologist, and see what you need to do to get it under control. Everybody's individual. Diabetes can be controlled."

The star hopes to inspire ...    Continue

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