"Once I was diagnosed, it's like I got my life back," Carrie Ann Inaba tells PEOPLE

By Karen Mizoguchi
May 02, 2019 12:35 PM
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Carrie Ann Inaba continues to be open about her health battles, including Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) — a medical condition she was diagnosed with six years ago.

“Some people start to feel like I did, like, ‘Oh maybe I’m just getting old, and this is sort of the beginning of the end.’ I was like, in my early forties and said, ‘Is this what happens to you? Am I just going to get really lethargic and not be able to do anything and be incapacitated?’ ” Inaba, 51, tells PEOPLE about her health prior to getting diagnosed.

After feeling frustrated and debilitated, The Talk co-host finally consulted with her doctor and did a blood and iron panel, and found out about her low hemoglobin and iron levels. IDA was something Inaba had never heard of, but she learned that the condition affects nearly five million adults in the U.S.

Now, the Dancing with the Stars judge works with Daiichi Sankyo, Inc. and their Get Iron Informed campaign to raise awareness of IDA and urge others to go see their doctors about a possible diagnosis.

“Once I was diagnosed, it’s like I got my life back,” Inaba says. “I am so grateful. There’s a blessing in some of these health conditions because it gives you a greater awareness of your own health. It makes you take care of yourself and realize it’s a very important component of a healthy lifestyle is to see the doctor regularly, make sure that you’re keeping up all your checkups and getting the right tests.”

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Along with balancing the ups and downs of her health, Inaba is getting used to her job on The Talk, which she officially joined as permanent co-host in January.

“Every day waking up is very different for me,” says Inaba, who has also been a judge on DWTS since season 1 in June 2005.

“I have never had to do that before for a job, like waking up at a certain time and having this, sort of, very specific schedule. This schedule is more demanding on me than any schedule I’ve ever had before, besides maybe when I was on tour with Madonna, but that was only three months,” she recalls.

“What I notice is that I am very careful, and that’s what I was saying earlier about the gift of when you have health conditions is, I’m very careful and I’m always aware of how much, how my energy management is,” says Inaba, who is featured in PEOPLE’s 2019 Beautiful Issue alongside her cat Mimi. “So if I’m not feeling well or if I’m starting to get a little tired, I really take good care of myself, I rest.”

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Since her debut on The Talk, on which she replaced Julie Chen, Inaba has been using the CBS daytime show as a platform for good.

“The best part of being on The Talk is that every day there are these mental and emotional stimuli, and then that’s like a challenge to the brain. ‘How can I speak what I want to say in a way that people can understand and maybe relate to? How can I help people with my own stories?’ ” Inaba says. “Sometimes it’s very personal sharing very deep stories and hoping that maybe somebody else has experienced that. That maybe they will relate and maybe find solace in the fact that somebody else has gone through it, or maybe something I say will help them think of something differently so that they can have a brighter approach on their own life.”

Inaba adds, “I love being on The Talk because it’s more of an opportunity to do that and I get a lot of wonderful feedback on social media. A lot of people ask me questions about topics that we’ve talked on the show and kind of go deeper.”

Whether it’s speaking out about IDA or her overall health, Inaba emphasizes that her goal is to use her stardom to help others.

“People have asked about joining The Talk panel and, you know, what am I trying to accomplish? And my goal is really just to be me, and to be fully present, and to be honest,” she says.

“To share my own journey as honestly as I possibly can in a way that maybe, hopefully, can help somebody else because I do feel that life is filled with a lot of struggles and a lot of trials — I’ve had my fair share,” Inaba shares. “I think a lot of people feel that, and I don’t want people to feel alone in those struggles. We need to come together and help each other through struggles — that’s what I’m always trying to do.”