Tom Hanks, the award-winning actor best known for his role as “Forrest Gump,” announced last week that he has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. His announcement helps to shed light on the reality of what it means to be one of the 26 million people in the United States that have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Tom Hanks and Diabetes

Tom Hanks announced last week that he has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a growing epidemic in the U.S. and the CDC estimates that in 2050, 1 in 3 people in the U.S. face the risk of developing diabetes. Dr. Madhuri Devdhar, a local endocrinologist with Adventist Medical Group, helps patients understand the impact of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

When a person is first diagnosed they may go through a “mixed bag of emotions,” she says. Many feel scared because they don’t know what the future holds for them, they feel guilty for not exercising or eating too much, they may experience depression and are confused about what to do next. This is normal, says Dr. Devdhar, because many of these feelings come from the common misconception that being diagnosed with diabetes means they have to completely change their lifestyle. Also, many fear they might suffer blindness, limb amputations and the complications from heart disease that having diabetes could cause.

Type 2 diabetes does have the ability to cause very serious health complications, but as long as patients maintain and control their disease they can function as normal and live a fulfilling life. Dr. Devdhar recommends maintaining a healthy lifestyle, taking medications as directed and, as a result, many of the health complications can be prevented.

Another common misconception Dr. Devdhar hears is that a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes means a person has to stop eating all the things they love. She tries to help her patients understand that three small tips can help you live a healthy lifestyle:

  • The first is to tweak your diet. Make changes that fit your lifestyle and diagnosis.  Add leafy greens to your diet by adding a salad to a meal and change fried foods to baked or steamed foods.
  • The second tip is to remember moderation. Try to cut down on the size of desserts you have at meals, cut down on the amount of carbohydrates you eat by eating less bread, pasta, pizza and rice. You don’t have to cut those foods out completely from your diet, but reduce the amount at meals. Instead of eating a second helping of spaghetti, add a salad to help you feel more fulfilled after a meal.
  • The final tip is to remember portion control. It is helpful to use a smaller plate when eating because it limits the size of the food portions. Also, when eating out save half of the portion for lunch the next day, or order a 6-inch sandwich instead of the foot-long sandwich.

A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can be scary and confusing, but it can be managed and controlled by working with your physician and family. These tips can be used by everyone and a healthy lifestyle can be easier than you think.

If you’ve been recently diagnosed with diabetes or have questions about managing diabetes, let our team of experts help you or your loved ones learn how to manage it and prevent complications at our diabetes education outpatient program.