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This Was Anthony Anderson's First Sign of Type 2 Diabetes

The Black-ish star went to the doctor after experiencing this strange symptom at night.

Since 2014, actor Anthony Anderson has starred as Andre "Dre" Johnson, on Black-ish, which will begin airing its eighth and final season in January. But while he's earned 11 Emmy nominations for his work on the show, his story goes far beyond just acting. Back in 2001, Anderson was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and in the decades since, he's spoken about his experience and become an advocate for others like him. In discussing his symptoms, Anderson has also shared the one sign that helped him realize something wasn't quite right, leading to his diagnosis. Read on to learn more about the 51-year-old's first sign of type 2 diabetes, and his history with the medical condition.

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Anthony Anderson's first sign of diabetes was drinking five gallons of water in one night.

Anthony Anderson 2021
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

In 2001, at the age of 31, Anderson found himself feeling under the weather, but didn't know why. "I was taking midday naps, something that I had never done before," he recalled to WebMD in 2016. "I was developing a television show, I was doing movies. I was fatigued, but I thought that it was just everything catching up to me."

Aside from this exhaustion, Anderson experienced a much more jarring symptom. He told WebMD that after he drank five gallons of water in one night, he knew it was time to see a doctor. This led to his diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition where a body resists or doesn't produce enough insulin, resulting in too much sugar in the bloodstream, per the Mayo Clinic.

Excessive thirst is one of the most common symptoms of type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. The site notes that other symptoms include fatigue, urinating frequently, feeling very hungry while eating, and numbness in hands or feet.

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Anderson's parents were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after him.

Anthony Anderson 2019
Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

While speaking to Diabetes Voice, an online magazine produced by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), Anderson said that he felt like he didn't know how to deal with his diagnosis, as a busy actor in his thirties and father to a 1-year-old. Ultimately, his family became a big part of his journey with the disease, including his stepfather, Sterling Bowman, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes right after Anderson.

"Looking back one thing is pretty clear, my father probably lived with diabetes for more than 20 years undiagnosed," Anderson said. "Now that I know diabetes symptoms, I can see that my father exhibited them. He was living with diabetes when I was a teenager, he just didn't know it." The actor shared that his mother, Doris Hancox, was later diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as well.

Unfortunately, in 2008, Bowman passed away from type 2 diabetes complications. For Anderson, the loss of his father encouraged him to think more about his health. "My dad just didn't know what happens when you don't take control of your diabetes," he said in a 2018 interview with Get Real About Diabetes, a campaign that Anderson worked on with pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk. "That was a real wake-up call for me. I didn't want to just be a memory for my family, I wanted to be there. So, I vowed right then and there that things would be different, that I would get serious about managing my diabetes."

The actor made some big changes to his daily routine.

Anthony Anderson 2018

Anderson told Diabetes Voice that he's gone through some major lifestyle changes, including a new workout routine. He started walking and jogging on the treadmill twice a day, and he has a trainer in Los Angeles that he works with four times a week. "It's a mixture of cardio, strength, and boxing," he explained. "So, we work out with weights and then do some boxing, then cardio."

Besides exercising, he also focuses on eating things in moderation. "Healthy eating is equally important, Anderson added. "I have better control of the things I consciously do. I have more control of my health in terms of being diligent such as making time for the gym and eating the right foods."

Managing his diabetes goes beyond physical activity and diet, however. The actor revealed to Get Real About Diabetes that he uses injectables, which delivers liquid medications, like insulin, into the body.

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Anderson's history with diabetes played a role in his hit TV show.

The cast of Blackish 2018
David Livingston/Getty Images

Anderson had the opportunity to incorporate his experience with diabetes into his hit show. During a 2017 episode of Black-ish, Dre is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. While speaking to Diabetes Voice, Anderson detailed how Dre struggles to come to terms with his diagnosis.

"It's the first integration of its kind where the main character I play is diagnosed with a disease that the lead actor, me, actually lives with for real," he said. "We wanted to talk about Andre's challenges publicly to bring greater awareness. That's why I want to talk about diabetes on Black-ish. I wanted to show how diabetes has affected me personally, and how devastating its effect can be."

He encourages patients everywhere to find their own path to controlling their type 2 diabetes.

Anthony Anderson 2019
Joe Seer/Shutterstock

Although living with the disease can be difficult, Anderson has no intentions of letting it hold him back. In his interview with Get Real About Diabetes, he explained that he's found his own way to "run with" his disease, and he's hoping others will do the same.

"Whether it's being there for your family, the things you still want to accomplish in life, the places you want to go—focus on all those things and let them drive you," he said. "Changing what food you eat, consistently being active, and taking an injectable medicine may seem a bit daunting at first, but just give it a shot, pun intended."

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