May 18, 2016 2:42 pm
Updated: May 18, 2016 2:48 pm

Tom Hanks and Type 2 diabetes: Here’s how you can stave off the disease

Tom Hanks says he's a "total idiot" for not looking after his health and developing Type 2 diabetes.

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Celebrities have candidly shared their cautionary stories about battling breast cancer, disclosing their HIV-positive status, and even their struggles with mental health.

Now, Tom Hanks is opening up about his Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, calling himself a “total idiot” for not looking after his health to stall the onset of the chronic disease, despite many red flags.

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“I’m part of the lazy American generation that has blindly kept dancing through the party and now finds ourselves with a malady,” Hanks told the Radio Times.

“I was heavy. You’ve seen me in movies, you know what I looked like. I was a total idiot,” Hanks, 59, said when talking about managing his health and lifestyle.

READ MORE: Diabetes rates quadrupled to 422 million people in 2014, according to the WHO

It was in 2013 that Hanks first publicly talked about developing Type 2 diabetes, according to U.S. reports.

“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,’” he told then-Late Show host David Letterman.

Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease in which your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or your body doesn’t properly use the insulin it makes, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association. As a result, sugar builds up in your blood instead of being used for energy.

Dr. Ron Goldenberg, an endocrinologist specializing in diabetes care at North York General Hospital, says some factors, such as genetics, family history and a predisposition, are out of our hands, but there are ways to delay and even prevent the worsening of the disease.

“While Tom Hanks is correct in saying he could have kept this off, you may still get it if you’re predisposed. Some people get it despite their best efforts,” Goldenberg told Global News.

“But you can delay the onset, sometimes you may even prevent it and once you get it you can improve [your situation]. There have been cases where people have reversed their Type 2 diabetes,” he explained.

READ MORE: What Alzheimer’s disease and heart health, diabetes have in common

The progression varies from person to person: some people could be prediabetic then develop diabetes within a rapid timeframe of about two to three years while others could have the disease slowly progress for years or even decades.

The guide to stalling or preventing diabetes is nearly identical to its treatment. Here are four ways you can try to keep Type 2 diabetes at bay:

Watch your weight: Goldenberg says Type 2 diabetes is “definitely” linked to obesity. About 80 to 90 per cent of people with the condition are obese, he says.

“As the obesity epidemic increases, so does the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes. Once you’re diagnosed, one of the important aspects is weight loss,” he said.

A modest weight loss of about five to 10 pounds can “dramatically improve” blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure – all risk factors tied to diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

READ MORE: Is taxing sugary drinks the answer to diabetes and obesity epidemics?

Being obese makes you 20 to 40 times more likely to develop diabetes compared to someone with a healthy weight. Losing up to 10 per cent of your current weight could cut chances of developing diabetes in half, though.

Keep up with diet and exercise: Aim for about 30 minutes of physical activity daily, Goldenberg suggests. And when it comes to eating, try to shave off about 500 calories per day. That tactic alone could help you lose about a pound a week.

The Harvard School of Public Health points to a diet rich in whole grains and fibre.

“Whole grains don’t contain a magical nutrient that fights diabetes and improves health. It’s the entire package,” the researchers explain.

The bran and fibre in whole grains make it difficult for our body’s enzymes to break down the starches into glucose. This leads to a lower, slower increase in blood sugar and insulin.

READ MORE: 5 ways to keep your brain young and healthy

On the other end of the spectrum, try to avoid simple sugars and refined carbohydrates. Those will get converted into glucose quickly.

Trans fats should also be traded in for mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Load up on nuts, poultry, and fish, too.

Losing five per cent of body weight, following a healthy diet and exercising for at least 30 minutes a day can make you 60 per cent less likely to go on to develop diabetes.

Manage your stress levels: Stress isn’t a direct cause of diabetes but it can “magnify” the situation, especially if you’re predisposed to the disease, Goldenberg says.

That’s because your stress hormones, such as cortisol, can tamper with blood glucose levels. It’s not an underlying factor but reducing stress won’t work against you.

Make sure you’re sleeping enough, too. Insufficient sleep could put your long-term health at risk.

Pay attention to the warning signs: There are a handful of signs and symptoms that could signal the precursor to diabetes.

Goldenberg said a primary concern is excess weight around the waist. Another concern is your fasting glucose levels, which your doctor can test for.

The CDA says unusual thirst, frequent urination, weight gain, extreme fatigue or lack of energy and blurred vision are also red flags you should ask your doctor about.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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