Monday, on Late Night with David Letterman, Academy Award winning actor, Tom Hanks, admitted to having type 2 diabetes. There to get the word out about his latest film, Captain Phillips, he shocked the audience with his diagnosis right out of the gate. “I went to the doctor and he said ‘You know those high blood sugar numbers you’ve been dealing with since you were 36? Well, you’ve graduated. You’ve got type 2 diabetes, young man,'” said Hanks.
Hanks, 57, has been known to take on roles that require him to both gain and lose enormous amounts of weight. For his role in Castaway, he initially gained fifty pounds for his scenes for the majority of the film and then had to lose that weight during a year-long break in production for the end scenes where he played a man fighting for his survival on a deserted island for 4 years. Often, he has to gain weight rapidly, plus some. In 1992, for the movie A League of Their Own, Hanks played an angry misfit baseball coach for an all-women’s team – a role for which he had to gain 30 pounds.
Type 2 diabetes is the most commonly diagnosed form of diabetes. Usually this means the cells ignore insulin, or the body just does not produce enough. Glucose is used for energy in the body, but when there is not enough insulin, the body is not given fuel. After eating, the body breaks down both sugars and starches into glucose, which is how the body’s energy is produced.
There is a misconception that diabetes only strikes those overweight or unhealthy; but the truth is, anyone can be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Many celebrities have publicly come out with their own diagnoses, and many of them are in top-notch health, physically.
Actress Halle Berry, at age 22, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after slipping into a week-long coma. Doctors later suggested the actress probably had type 2 diabetes after Berry admitted that in 2007 she had weaned herself off insulin.
In 2004, another celebrity known for his dapper appearance and seemingly healthy lifestyle announced his diagnosis. Broadcasting legend Dick Clark, at age 74 admitted that 10 years earlier he had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and later became a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
So many myths and stereotypes circulate about this disease that it makes it hard to know the difference between facts and falsehoods. Some say it is not a serious disease, yet statistics show that diabetes causes more deaths per year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. If properly managed it can be maintained, however, two out of three people diagnosed with diabetes die from stroke or heart disease.
Another mistaken belief is that if you are overweight you will certainly get type 2 diabetes. Overeating and obesity can lead to many health problems, but diabetes is more linked to family history, age, and ethnicity. Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many with normal or moderate weight can develop it.
Celebrities like Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Dick Clark each developed type 2 diabetes for various reasons. Each person diagnosed had his or her own history that did not necessarily fit a mold. Taking care of your body, exercising, and regular checkups with your doctor are ways to stay on top of any risk factors you may have, but is in no way a safeguard from this diagnosis. This disease can be maintained and normal life can continue as long as you follow the suggestions of your healthcare provider.
By Amy Magness Whatley