Nick Jonas on Managing His Diabetes: 'The Mental and Emotional Health Aspect Is Really Important'

The singer was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 13 years old

nick jonas
Photo: Rich Fury/Getty

Nick Jonas says having diabetes is a life challenge, but one that he can manage. He acknowledges "everyone's journey with diabetes is diffierent," but staying top of it and remaining open-minded with new information can help with "living your happiest and healthiest life."

The 29-year-old singer recently spoke to PEOPLE about his health and the kind of change he hopes to make as National Diabetes Awareness Month kicks off.

Jonas' diagnosis came when he was 13 years old after one of his older brothers noticed his symptoms — an unquenchable thirst for sugary sodas paired with some drastic weight loss. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which means his body creates very little or no insulin, requiring medication.

"I had this kind of wrench thrown into things when I was diagnosed and it took a while to figure out how to count carbs to properly dose for insulin and what things would affect me in different ways," Jonas tells PEOPLE.

He has partnered with Dexcom, a glucose monitoring system that you wear that is linked to an app. "Having tools like Dexcom to be able to very easily and clearly track your numbers in real time and work towards a greater amount of time in range is something that's been great to always raise awareness around," he said of the company's new Global Movement for Time in Range initiative.

<a href="" data-inlink="true">Nick Jonas</a>

Managing diabetes has been an ongoing learning experience for Jonas, who says he now has a "fairly good grip on it" after 16 years. But he admits he wishes he had someone to look up to when he was diagnosed at such a young age and now wants to be that role model for someone else: "That's my focus."

"When I was first diagnosed, I was sitting in the hospital and was scared to death, honestly, while I was learning about how to manage this new thing I was dealing with," Jonas recalls. "It would have been amazing to have someone to look at at that time to say, oh, this is a person living with it and they're following their dreams. They're doing what they want to do with their lives and not letting it slow them down."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

<a href="" data-inlink="true">Nick Jonas</a>

Jonas said growing up, he didn't realize how unpredictable diabetes could be and how much of an invasive disease it is, adding that he's had to learn to not put too much pressure on himself.

"I am a perfectionist and definitely put a lot of pressure on myself to do the best I can always and that includes, you know, my life with diabetes," he says. "But also, I understand that a lot of things are out of my control and keep me on my toes all the time."

Jonas continues, "I knew that there will be good days and bad days but I didn't know that sometimes, especially as you get older — going from being a 13-year-old to now 29 — there are ways to take the pressure off."

The musician recommends people "stay encouraged" on their journey by leaning on their support system through the ups and downs. For him, he finds support in his wife, Priyanka Chopra, and family — including Jonas Brothers bandmates and siblings, Joe Jonas and Kevin Jonas.

"I think that mental and emotional health aspect of it is really important," he says. "I certainly speak to my therapist ... and luckily, I've got a really good support system around me and a great set of doctors," he adds.

<a href="" data-inlink="true">Nick Jonas</a>
Matt Winkelmeyer/FilmMagic

Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.

"What needs awareness is the mental and emotional impacts that it has not only just on the individual that's affected by the disease, but also by the friends and family and loved ones," he says.

"I think speaking to that and building programs, whether it's reading materials or other ways in which we can shed some light on that…. that's something I'm incredibly passionate about," Jonas continues.

And the singer is doing that through his non-profit, Beyond Type 1, which seeks to unite the global diabetes community and provide solutions to improve people's lives through "platforms, programs, resources and grants," according to its website.

The organization features members of the Type 1 diabetes community on its Instagram page to demonstrate how it's possible to "live beyond" the disease. Jonas says he'll continue to use his sizable platform to speak out for "those young people who look up to me."

Related Articles