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Three Things You Should Know About Type 2 Diabetes

About 7 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes.

Actor Tom Hanks recently revealed he has the most common form of diabetes – type 2.

Those with type 2 diabetes don’t properly use insulin, which is needed to absorb sugar and starches in the blood.

Hanks has attributed the disease to both lifestyle choices and genetics. In the latest installment of KERA’s Vital Signs, Dr. Saleemah Fahmi, an endocrinologist at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, explains how those factors impact the disease.

Three things about type 2 diabetes:

  • Diabetes has “skyrocketed over the past few decades,” Fahmi said. “There is a genetic preponderance to having diabetes. People with family history are going to be more likely to have diabetes. But a lot of that is lifestyle choices. It’s the way that they eat, the amount that they eat, the physical activity that they do or do not have.”

  • You can avoid type 2 – but you have to start early. “Some people want to ‘reverse’ diabetes,” Fahmi said. “But when you have diabetes, it’s a continuum. It’s years in the making. They can’t reverse it overnight. Sometimes, the pancreas is just so worn out it can’t resume adequate insulin production to keep the blood sugars normal.”

  • About 7 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes. “For type 2, the symptoms can creep up.,” Fahmi said. “They’re used to being tired, they’re used to waking up in the middle of the night to urinate. They’re used to being hungry all the time.  The symptoms appear gradually. Until the symptoms get to be so drastic … a lot of times they just don’t present.  A lot of people go undiagnosed for years. Some go five years.”

For more information:

Basics of Diabetes

What is Prediabetes?

Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

The Challenge of Diabetes for Doctor and Patient

Tom Hanks on his Diabetes

The Diabetic’s Paradox

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.