The health of the nation has come under serious threat caused by obesity and lack of exercise, leading to an alarming forecast of millions developing type-2 diabetes. But you don’t have to be obese to become diabetic, as Tom Hanks discovered.
With a million-plus people in the UK with undiagnosed pre-diabetes going about their daily lives, as Dr Chris has warned, this news should be enough to raise our personal awareness of the diabetes pandemic. Might we ourselves be pre-diabetic? How would we know? What are the symptoms?
Tom Hanks raises awareness
It was in 2013, in a TV interview with David Letterman, that Tom Hanks made an invaluable contribution to the diabetes awareness campaign by telling the world that he had recently been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. In fact, Tom Hanks revealed, he had been living with undiagnosed pre-diabetic symptoms for some twenty years.
Tom Hanks said: ‘I went to the doctor and he said, “You know those high blood sugar numbers you've been living with since you were 36? Well, you’ve graduated! You’ve got type-2 diabetes, young man.”’
Well known for his wide-ranging Oscar winning performances, some of his roles have required drastic weight changes. For example, Tom Hanks gained 30lbs for his role in A League Of Their Own (1995) and he both gained and then lost 50lbs for his role in Castaway (2000). ‘Gaining and losing weight may have had something to do with this [diabetes],’ he said, ‘because you eat so much bad food and you don’t get any exercise when you’re heavy. But I think I was genetically inclined to get it and I think it actually goes back to a lifestyle I’ve been leading ever since I was seven years old, as opposed to 36.’ He adds that pizza was a key ingredient when he bulked up for roles: ‘Pizza is the most delightful thing ever invented and it’s—for me—diabolically dangerous.’
And how does Tom Hanks cope with his type-2 diabetes? By all accounts, by doing exactly the right things: he told BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, ‘I always joke: you’ve got to maintain the temple. I get regular exercise and I eat right—which everybody should do—and I take certain meds.’ And for the future, Tom Hanks has now ruled out roles that require weight gain.
See also: Deciphering Diabetes
What are these symptoms?
If, as it proved for Tom Hanks, you think you could be one of those million-plus people in the UK with undiagnosed pre-diabetic symptoms, you would be right to be asking, What exactly are these symptoms that will help me recognise that I might be pre-diabetic?
For some pre-diabetics there are no signs or symptoms, however, if you’re overweight and edging towards obesity, Dr Chris says then you are at risk and you should take steps right away to reduce your weight through the avoidance of high-fat foods, and by taking daily exercise.
For others, there are what the experts class as ‘red flag’ symptoms that can signal you may be at risk of diabetes:
• blurred vision
• frequent urination
• increased thirst
• unexplained fatigue
What is my risk?
And for us all, we need to look into it because we may find we are indeed within a category in which diabetes is more likely to occur, if …
• you have a family history of type-2 diabetes
• you lead an inactive lifestyle
• you suffer from high blood pressure
• you’re overweight or obese
• your age group is 50+
Helping awareness with Diabetes UK
Dr Chris tells us: ‘While the forecast increase of type-2 diabetes in the UK is alarming, the awareness campaign is extremely important because the disease is preventable, particularly if people work to avoid becoming obese, and in some cases early stage diabetes is reversible if a programme of weight loss through strict diet and exercise is followed.’
Diabetes UK runs the UK’s biggest-ever awareness campaign every year. This year Diabetes Week I is scheduled for June 12-18 and the campaign aims to ‘set the record straight … we’ll be uncovering the truth about diabetes; what it’s like to live with it every day, and the things you wish everyone knew about living with the condition.’
See also: Diabetes and Foot Care
Why is the campaign so important? Diabetes UK explains: ‘Around 7 million people in the UK —that’s one in seven of us —are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. It’s a serious condition with no cure, and it can lead to devastating complications. But type-2 diabetes isn’t inevitable. Up to 80 percent of cases of Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented. So it’s important that everyone understands their risk, so they can reduce their chances of ever developing the condition. That’s why our awareness campaign is so important.’
There is also a World Diabetes Day every year on November 14 when millions of people around the world come together to raise awareness of diabetes. Along with celebrities such as Tom Hanks, the awareness campaign will go a long way to help people at risk of diabetes.
See also: Are you at Risk of Diabetes?