diabetes myths abound. Chances are, if you don't know anyone with diabetes, or haven't had personal experience with the disease, then you've heard all sorts of things, some which may be in conflict with each other. Read on for some common myths.
Myth: Type 2 diabetes isn't as serious as Type 1 diabetes.
Fact: All diabetes is serious. Type 2 diabetes tends to develop slowly over time, and the signs of diabetes also develop slowly and vary from person to person. Thus it may be easy to think that type 2 diabetes is less serious. It is not. Diabetes is always serious and should be treated as such.
Myth: Diabetes isn't serious if you only have a "mild" form of the disease that doesn't require medication or insulin.
Fact: All types of diabetes are serious. Untreated or poorly controlled diabetes can lead to further complications including diabetic neuropathy, vision problems, heart and kidney disease, and more. A diagnosis of diabetes should always be taken seriously to avoid complications of diabetes. Even if you "only" need to make lifestyle changes to manage the disease, it's still a serious and complicated disease.
Myth: Diabetes is contagious.
Fact: You cannot catch diabetes from someone who has the disease.
Myth: You don't have to worry about diabetes if you're of normal body weight.
Fact: While being overweight increases risk for developing type 2 diabetes, even people with normal weight can get the disease. Being overweight is only one risk factor. Some other risk factors include family history, a sedentary lifestyle, and long-term poor eating habits.
Myth: You don't have to worry about diabetes if you don't have a family history of diabetes.
Fact: Once again, family history is only one risk factor. Type 2 diabetes is a complicated disease. You can lower your risk of getting diabetes by maintaining a healthy body weight (or losing weight, if needed), getting regular exercise, and eating a healthy diet.
Myth: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
Fact: The sugar you eat and the sugar in your blood are different things. Blood sugar, or blood glucose, is what the body uses for energy. The carbohydrates we consume get turned into sugars that our bodies use for energy - and while sweets tend to have lots of carbs, so too do regular foods like pasta, rice, breads, potatoes, even corn and peas. When the body is unable to use insulin properly, or doesn't produce enough insulin, then blood sugar levels rise to unhealthy levels. This is diabetes.
Myth: Diabetics have to eat a "special" (and horrible-tasting) diet.
Fact: A healthy diet for diabetics is the same as a healthy diet for everyone. The focus is on fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats, low-fat dairy, and whole grains and complex carbohydrates. Fresh foods should be chosen more often over refined and processed foods.
However, diabetics do need to plan their meals to keep blood sugar levels under control. This includes eating at regular scheduled times and watching portion control.
Myth: People with type 2 diabetes aren't allowed to have sweets or desserts.
carbohydrates, they also raise blood sugar quickly and need to be eaten in moderation and carefully incorporated into an overall healthy eating plan. A dietitian can assist in the development of an eating plan that includes your favorite foods.
Myth: Diabetics aren't allowed to eat carbohydrates or starchy foods like potatoes or pasta.
Fact: Carbohydrates are a part of a healthy eating plan. Diabetics need to watch portions, though, to ensure that their blood glucose levels do not "spike". Again, a dietitian can assist you.
Myth: Since fruit, whole grains, lean meats, etc.. are healthy, diabetics can eat as much of it as they like.
Fact: Diabetics need to plan their meals and snacks to keep their blood sugar levels tightly regulated. This is particularly true when planning the carbohydrates in your eating plan (remember that carbs are also found in fruit!). While you can enjoy all types of foods, portion control is very important -- not just because of blood sugar control, but also because overly-large portions can still cause you to gain weight. If you consume more calories than you use up during the day, you'll gain weight. It doesn't matter if those extra calories are from cake or from apples (although it would take a lot of apples to make up the same number of calories found in a slice a cake!).
Myth: Once I start taking diabetes medications, I will have to take them for life.
Fact: Some type 2 diabetics are able to succesfully manage their disease through a combination of weight loss, exercise, and a healthy diet. In such cases, medication may no longer be required or a smaller dosage may be sufficient.
Myth: I have a family history of diabetes, so I know I'll get it too.
Fact: Family history is only one of the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. You can take steps to lower your risk of getting the disease. If you are overweight, lose weight -- even losing 10-15 pounds can help (excess weight can lead to insulin resistance). Also get into a regular exercise routine and try to eat a healthy diet.
Myth: Diabetics shouldn't exercise because it will worsen their condition.
Fact: Exercise is recommended for diabetics because it helps to regulate blood sugar, lowers blood pressure, and improves cholesterol. It keeps you fit and is also a natural mood enhancer. Of course, you should always consult your doctor first before beginning an exercise routine.
Myth: Taking insulin will cure diabetes.
Fact: Insulin only keeps blood sugar levels within a target range. It does not cure diabetes.
Don't let common diabetes myths scare you. If you believe that you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, or you are showing symptoms, consult with your doctor. A simple test can determine whether or not you have diabetes.