Tom Hanks' Diagnosis Brings Emphasis To Dodging Diabetes In Westchester

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks surprised the world two years ago when he revealed he had type 2 diabetes. And that's a good thing.

Dr. Rebecca Fenichel,  an endocrinologist at White Plains Hospital Physician Associates.
Dr. Rebecca Fenichel, an endocrinologist at White Plains Hospital Physician Associates. Photo Credit: Submitted

It's always helpful when a well-known celebrity or personality is honest about their health, said Rebecca Fenichel, MD, ECNU, an endocrinologist at White Plains Hospital Physician Associates in New Rochelle.

"Taking away some of the stigma and fear related to the diagnosis will hopefully help people go to their doctors and get screened with blood tests," she explained. "It is also helpful for people to know they can live a healthy, productive and enjoyable life, despite their diagnosis."

A healthy diet is key to keeping prediabetes or diabetes at bay, as is exercise and keeping your weight in the normal range.

"The first steps are finding a diet that works for you -- this is different for everyone," said Dr. Fenichel. "You should also try to find a form of exercise that you enjoy and then do it for the rest of your life." (When this isn’t enough, or the risk is high, medications are often added.)

What may surprise most folks: You could have prediabetes and even diabetes, and not feel a thing. "It can often be silent, even when your sugars are high. By the time you are diagnosed, you may already have complications," said Dr. Fenichel.

Many patients have a family history, but a large percentage don’t. Having a first degree relative with diabetes more than doubles your risk. Having a family history of diabetes on both sides makes it much higher.

"The genetics of type 2 diabetes are very complex, and unfortunately relatively few genes have been identified," explained.Dr. Fenichel.

Which is why she and other experts strongly emphasize the importance of diet as well as close consultation with a doctor who specializes in diabetes care.