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Gladys Knight, Health Crusader

She's a seven-time Grammy winner who's racked up a string of hits over five decades, but talk to Gladys Knight about diabetes and you might wonder if the 63-year-old music legend has been harboring a second career as a nurse. She'll tell you what to do to prevent the disease, how to delay it, and how to live a healthy life despite it. Hers is pure passion, fueled by experience and, foremost, by love: Knight's mother, Sarah Elizabeth Knight, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when she was 30 and battled it valiantly for 50 years, until she died in 1997. "She was an amazing woman," says Knight. "She set out to get educated about it and became meticulous about her diet." After her death, Knight's family established the Elizabeth Knight Fund, which supports diabetes research and awareness programs. So far, the fund has raised $3 million. And just in time. Diabetes is now near epidemic levels—more than 20 million Americans live with it, many of them African American. "I tell people what I tell myself—you have choices," she says. Making good ones isn't always easy, but it pays off.

 

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