People often think that type 2 diabetes strikes only the overweight and sedentary, or unhealthy eaters.
But anyone can be diagnosed with diabetes, even world-class athletes, or the rich and famous.
The following celebrities all had some risk factors for diabetes (such as weight, ethnicity, or family history), but many were still shocked to hear the diagnosis. They’ve all made healthy changes in their lives, and many now speak out about the dangers of type 2 diabetes.
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When Oscar nominee was diagnosed with diabetes, she took charge of her health, secretly going under the knife after more than a decade of trying to lose weight naturally. “I truly didn’t want to worry about all the effects that go along with diabetes,” she told People. “I genuinely [would] worry all the time about losing my toes.”
Since having bariatric surgery in 2016, the Brooklyn-born actress, beloved for her breakout role in the 2009 film Precious, continued to make positive lifestyle changes by working with a nutritionist and amping up her fitness regimen.
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S. Epatha Merkerson
This Emmy award-winning actress won us over as Lt. Van Buren on Law & Order and then as hospital administrator Sharon Goodwin on Chicago Med. In her off-screen life, Merkerson is both a diabetes patient and advocate. She encourages others to reach their A1c goals.
Even though she had a family history of type 2 diabetes, “my diagnosis was a wake-up call,” she told USA Today in 2016. “I knew I had to start making serious changes to my lifestyle to take control of my health.” That included making more nutritious food choices and taking up brisk walking.
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When Tom Hanks announced in 2013 that he , he joined millions of other Americans with this diagnosis. Age 60, Hanks had elevated blood sugar levels for years before being diagnosed, a not uncommon pattern with type 2.
While weight gain is a risk factor, yo-yo dieting may have also . Hanks gained 30 and lost 50 pounds for A League of Their Own and Cast Away, respectively, among other roles that required weight changes.
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Celebrity chef Paula Deen confirmed that she had type 2 diabetes in early 2012, at age 64. Famous for fat- and calorie-laden Southern dishes, experts speculated that a dietary overhaul .
While an unhealthy diet doesn't mean you will definitely get type 2 diabetes, excess weight, which ups the risk of insulin resistance, is a strong risk factor for this type of diabetes. Other contributors include genes, aging, and more.
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Actress Berry was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 22, after she became ill and slipped into a weeklong coma. In 2007, however, Berry announced that she’d weaned herself off insulin.
Doctors say that Berry likely had type 2 diabetes all along, because there is no way to avoid insulin if you have type 1. (Type 1s can’t survive without it.)
Since Berry is healthy and fit, doctors may have initially ruled out type 2, which usually affects young people only if they are overweight.
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The Goodfellas and Law & Order actor was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2006, after feeling tired and thirsty for months. Daughter Mira, also an actor, to encourage a healthier lifestyle after he almost passed out one night during dinner.
Sorvino now has his diabetes under control, thanks to healthier eating, exercise, medication, and daily insulin injections.
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In 2002, music producer and American Idol judge Jackson weighed more than 300 pounds. He was diagnosed with diabetes after experiencing "flu symptoms" that turned out to be high blood sugar. (His was over 500, while normal is between 80 and 120.)
Even though his father was diabetic, Jackson says, he never imagined it would happen to him.
With gastric bypass surgery, he lost almost 100 pounds. He has kept the weight offand his diabetes under controlwith healthy eating and daily exercise.
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This former presidential hopeful and Fox News host made headlines in 2004: The then-governor of Arkansas (dubbed "Wide-Body" by the press) lost 105 pounds.
In 2003 he had been diagnosed with diabetes after he woke one morning with a numb and tingly arm, he told . Soon after, the death of his friend and former governor Frank White motivated him to get healthy.
Huckabee dropped from 3,000 calories a day to 1,600. Just two years later, he had completed several marathons, and today he says he has reversed all signs of his diabetes.
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This former Designing Women star was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1997 at age 41.
"I learned how to, on the set, have certain kinds of snacks that were readily available to me," she told , a program associated with the . "I test my blood sugar in public and I’ll give myself shots in front of people and after a while it becomes normal."
Going on the diabetes drug Byetta in 2005 helped Burke get back to a healthy weight and improved her blood sugar.
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In April 2004, broadcasting legend Clark announced that he had type 2 diabetes. He’d been diagnosed 10 years before, at 64, but went public as a paid spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
Clark had a stroke later that year (a common danger for diabetics) and didn’t return to TV until the 2005–2006 New Year’s Eve countdown. In 2009, Clark told that he was "feeling fine, though the stroke has slowed me down and made it difficult for me to walk and talk." Clark died in 2012 at age 82 after a post-surgery heart attack.
King, who founded the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974, has a family history of diabetes and also had an eating disorder in the past. "I was a binge eater. I don’t binge eat anymore, but for about 10 years, I was being very cruel to my poor little pancreas."
To keep her condition under control, she exercises frequently, takes medication, and tests her blood sugar once or twice a day.
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Grammy-award winner LaBelle had no idea she had type 2 diabetes until she passed out on stage in 1994. "I was hooked on fried chicken and pasta," she told in 2008.
LaBelle was no stranger to diabetes complications: Her mother had leg amputations, and an uncle had gone blind. So, she got in shape and revamped her cooking techniques.
The "divabetic," as she refers to herself, has released three cookbooks that include diabetic-friendly recipes.
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The 82-year-old CNN anchor who retired from Larry King Live at the end of 2010 has been on diabetes medication since 1995. King told magazine that before he was diagnosed, he had no symptoms.
King does have a history of heart disease, however, and acknowledges the connection between the two conditions: "As my cardiologist said to me, diabetes is heart disease." After a heart attack in 1987, King quit smoking, lost weight, and changed his eating habits, and, in 2004, he wrote a book called .
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Shepherd was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007, days before she started as a cohost on The View. She didn’t change her eating habits until she had what she describes as a vision the following year.
"I had this vision of my son, Jeffrey, who was 2 then, lying on his bed and crying because he was trying to figure out where heaven was. Because that’s where everyone said Mommy was," she told magazine in 2009.
Shepherd slimmed down from a size 16 to a size 4 by working with a nutritionist and a personal trainer.
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He became famous as an overweight comedian and sitcom star, but in 2010, Carey revealed a healthier, happier version of himself after dropping 80 pounds. Carey told that after his weight loss, he was able to stop taking diabetes medication.
"Once I started dropping a couple pant sizes, then it was easy," he said. "’Cause once you see the results, then you don’t wanna stop."
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David "Boomer" Wells
Former Major League Baseball player Wells was one of the game’s best left-handed pitchers, but struggled with his weight for years. He wrote in his autobiography that when he pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees in 1998.
When he was diagnosed with type 2 in 2007, he cut out alcohol, as well as rice, pasta, potatoes, and white bread, , in order to manage diabetes.
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Earl "The Pearl" Monroe
Monroe played professional basketball from 1967 to 1980, but faced an even bigger challenge off the court, when he was diagnosed with diabetes in 1998.
In 2011, Monroe (now in his 70s), took part in the first . In 11 cities across the country, restaurants were challenged to make popular menu items diabetes friendly, while diners were challenged to make healthy choices (like sending back the bread basket and asking questions about how food is prepared) when eating out.
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After rising to stardom in Leave it to Beaver, actor Jerry Mathers later launched his own catering business, but a grim diagnosis in 1997 completely altered his path.
“My doctor told me I had type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and bad cholesterol was flooding my body,” Mathers said in a news release. The prognosis? He’d only live another three to five years unless he did something about his health. “I’ve been controlling my weight with diet and exercise ever since,” he told Fox News in 2017.