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Debbie Allen, 74, Says She Maintains Her Health by Being 'More Active Than Ever' (Exclusive)

“Being healthy is very important to me because I have so many people that depend on me and I have to be clear, focused and ready,” the legendary performer tells PEOPLE

<p>Courtesy Gr8 Eye Movement</p> Debbie Allen

Courtesy Gr8 Eye Movement

Debbie Allen

Throughout the years Debbie Allen’s career has shown no signs of slowing down.

The legendary actress, dancer, choreographer and producer recently spoke to PEOPLE about the importance of maintaining her health in order to keep up with her schedule and commitments. The 74-year-old admits that diet and staying active have been her focus, teasing that she even has some of her famous friends trying to give her advice and hold her accountable.


“My friend Denzel Washington called me on set the other day and told me, ‘Debbie, you got to drink 64 ounces of water a day. You gotta do it.’ I'm like, ‘Child, please. I'll be in the bathroom every five minutes,’” she tells PEOPLE with a laugh. “And then he called the next day to make sure I was doing it. But it's really true though. Water is a big part of being healthy. People need to drink water. We're made up of 60% water.”

In addition to keeping herself hydrated, Allen says, “I think keeping a healthy diet, keeping sugar down, carbs down. You can eat almost anything in moderation, but hopefully you're being active. And if you're not running, walking is just as good. Just take a long, long walk.”

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<p>Courtesy Gr8 Eye Movement</p> Debbie Allen

Courtesy Gr8 Eye Movement

Debbie Allen

Because Allen — who was diagnosed with pre-diabetes several years ago — says her health has been top of mind lately, she’s partnering with the non-profit Prevent Blindness and pharmaceutical company Regeneron for the Gr8 Eye Movement campaign.

“This is a movement that helps people pay attention and prioritize their eye health,” Allen explains. “There are retinal diseases that are laying in weight. And they're things that people can do but people don't even know about some of these diseases. Diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, wet age-related macular degeneration.”

Diabetes and advanced age are two risk factors for retinal disease, but poor circulation due to high blood pressure or high cholesterol can also put you at risk.

She continues, “I actually found out some of these when I joined the campaign. And it’s personal for me because diabetes has really ravaged my family for generations — my father, my grandfather, my uncles, aunts. So it's personal for me and if I can give that information to people and help them, it is a good thing.”

Related: Legendary Performer Debbie Allen on Her Mission to Prevent Blindness: 'This is Personal for Me' (Exclusive)

<p>Courtesy Gr8 Eye Movement</p> Debbie Allen

Courtesy Gr8 Eye Movement

Debbie Allen

Knowing how important lifestyle choices can be for her health, Allen boasts that she’s been “feeling great” about her journey after celebrating her 74th birthday in January. “I'm really good,” she says. “I'm flying up and down those stairs. I'm more active than ever. I've had more work than ever.”

“Being healthy is very important to me because I have so many people that depend on me and I have to be clear, focused and ready,” she adds. “I have so many responsibilities at Grey's Anatomy, at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, at the Rhimes Performing Arts Center. I have hundreds and hundreds of young people that I'm mentoring.”

In recent weeks Allen has been busy with Grey's Anatomy, currently starring in and executive-producing the long-running medical drama as it returned last week for its 20th season. The five-time Emmy winner, who has portrayed Dr. Catherine Fox since 2011, tells PEOPLE she’s been in awe of how far the show has come and the impact it’s had.

“Grey's Anatomy is the little engine that could,” she quips. “It is just going up and up and up. We don't know where the top of the hill is because we just keep climbing. 20 seasons. That's extraordinary. It's really wonderful.”

“It's really like family. They let me come and go from home a little bit. But it's a great opportunity and it's a great place to live,” she says. “And so many people learn about their health from Grey’s too!”

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Read the original article on People.