Sopranos Star Tackles Health Role

Despite six seasons brazenly weaving and bobbing her way through a televised fantasy world of bullets, bats and cement shoes, she freely admitted that when it came to facing her own real life illness she wasn't always so brave.

"I'm not the perfect person, I'm the regular person who most people are," said the native-born New Yorker. "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.' "

Beyond heart disease and stroke, the ADA says that a diabetes diagnosis also significantly boosts the risk for blindness, kidney disease, nervous system damage, loss of limbs due to amputation, dental disease and sexual dysfunction.

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

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.

For Turturro, disease control, by whatever means necessary, is the name of the game.

"You're not going to make it by living with high blood sugar," she warned. "It will create havoc. So, 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 sometimes by just diet, sometimes by diet and oral medicines, sometimes by insulin."

Turturro said that now that her involvement with the The Sopranos has come to an end, she's weighing her long-range options, including a possible TV project with her cousin, the actor John Turturro.

Meanwhile, she hopes her story can inspire people coping with diabetes to get the care they need.

"I like speaking about it," said Turturro, "because it keeps me in line. It keeps me thinking. And balancing my blood sugar has changed my life. I didn't realize how ill I could feel. How tired, snappy, cranky and sick. But now," she added, "I'm back."

More information

For additional information on diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association.

SOURCES: Aida Turturro, actor

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