Merkerson, who lost her father and grandmother to complications of type 2 diabetes, is taking an even bigger role in helping people with diabetes by partnering with Merck and the American Diabetes Association on America’s Diabetes Challenge: Get to Your Goals, an initiative designed to help raise awareness about proper blood sugar management and to help people work with their doctor to set and reach their A1C goal.
“It’s really important for people to know what their A1C is and to set and attain that goal with their doctor,” she says. “As my mother always said, ‘when you know better, you can do better.’”
For Merkerson, who will play the head of the hospital this fall in "Chicago Med," a new NBC show, and was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 12 years ago after having a blood test at a health fair, the most important thing is to be a good diabetes manager.
“When I was diagnosed, I was eating like a 12-year-old,” she says. “I needed to change the way I ate—right away.”
And, for Merkerson, playing the role of a hospital executive and working on this campaign feels like the best kind of synchronicity.
“I’m so excited about this new show,” she says. “I’m even hoping we can have discussions that interest each of us as characters. Maybe my character will even have issues with type 2 diabetes!”
Here, the four things Merkerson does to stay focused on living—well—with diabetes:
She’s got her ‘honey’ cooking for her: “I’m with this man who’s an amazing cook—the kitchen is foreign to me—I met this man who I really love and he’s a really good cook and he always talks to me about the things I can and can’t eat.”
She’s got a favorite dish: “My guy makes a baked chicken with lemon and capers that is so delicious. Sometimes, I make the salad—that’s the one thing I learned to do in the kitchen.” And, while she stays away from sugar, the couple might have end the meal with low-sugar sorbet. “My goal is to have something light,” she says.
She stays active: “You can get really sedentary on a set if you aren’t filming an action movie or a TV show,” she says. “I do the bicycle and I took Bikram yoga at one point. I’m lucky to live close to Central Park so I can get in the park and walk it. I continue to try to find things that will interest me—like yoga which I picked up again recently—and motivate me physically.”
She focuses on the positives: “Here’s the thing: As long as you keep up with your A1C is and you’re talking to a doctor or health care provider, you’re being proactive, which is exactly what you should do. I always tell people not to lose heart. The knowledge you have about diabetes will give you the power to think positive when you find yourself feeling distressed. Believe me, I understand. I struggle with it, too. I expect most people who have this condition do as well, but it’s important that you don’t feel discouraged!”