by Pam Coyle

Actor Halle Berry, politician Mike Huckabee, chef Paula Deen, Randy Jackson, actor Tom Hanks, rocker Bret Michaels.

Which celebrity doesn’t fit with the others?


If you picked any of the six, you’d be wrong. All have Type 2 diabetes. All have what older movies, and some of our older relatives, quaintly call “sugar diabetes” or “the sugar sickness,” or simply, “the sugars.”

But there’s nothing sweet about diabetes. Untreated, it can cause loss of limbs, blindness, and death. In Tennessee, diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death. In 2011, the most recent year with complete data, more than 1,700 people in Tennessee died of diabetes. At 11.2 percent, Tennessee is among the five states with the highest ratio of people who say a doctor has told them they have diabetes. The undiagnosed population could double that figure – or more.

In Type 2 diabetes the body does not use insulin properly. The pancreas produces extra insulin to make up for this perceived gap but over time it can’t keep up and can’t keep blood glucose (sugar) at normal levels.

The costs associated with this largely lifestyle-related disease are staggering. Earlier in 2013, the American Diabetes Association released new research that estimated the total costs of diagnosed diabetes rose to $245 billion in 2012 from $174 billion in 2007, a whopping 41 percent increase over five years.

But what makes Type 2 diabetes so frustrating is that in so many cases it is avoidable. Studies show the onset of type 2 diabetes can be prevented through weight loss, increasing physical activity, and improving dietary choices. Risk factors such as smoking, obesity, physical activity, and diet make prevention possible.

The symptoms can be subtle and include:
  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet

Sound familiar? Diagnosed early, diabetes is treatable and often can be managed without medication.

Awareness is Step 1. Action is Step 2.


Want to learn more? Visit the American Diabetes Association website.