Many people have heard of diabetes and information about diabetes is widely available. However, not all of the information is true. It can be hard to know what is accurate information, but with November being National Diabetes Awareness month, it is important we learn fact from fiction so that we do not spread misinformation within our community.
Here are eight common myths and facts about diabetes and those living with it.
• Myth #1: Diabetes is not a serious problem.
Fact: Diabetes is a serious disease. In fact, 10 percent of Americans have diabetes and roughly 30 percent of Americans have prediabetes and do not know it. Prediabetes often leads to Type 2 diabetes if left untreated. Diabetes is one of the ten leading causes of disability and death in the United States. Diabetes can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease and increases your chances of heart attacks and strokes.
• Myth #2: All types of diabetes are the same.
Fact: There are a number of types of diabetes and each type is different. The three most common type of diabetes are Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational diabetes. In Type 1, the body does not make insulin. The body needs insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal. People are born with Type 1 diabetes and need to take insulin every day for the rest of their life. In Type 2 diabetes, the body makes insulin but is not able to use it. It is the most common form of diabetes and Type 2 diabetes is preventable. Gestational diabetes only happens when you are pregnant and will go away after pregnancy. However, it does increase someone’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later on in life.
• Myth #3: Sugar is the cause of diabetes.
Fact: Type 1 is caused by genetics and Type 2 is cause by a number of risk factors such as genetics and lifestyle. Eating sugar alone does not start either type of diabetes.
• Myth #4: If you are overweight or obese, you will eventually get diabetes.
Fact: Being overweight or obese is a serious risk factor, but there are other factors that put you at risk for getting diabetes. Other factors such as having a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of diabetes, having prediabetes, or being over the age of 45 will increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
• Myth #5 Fruit is a healthy food, so if you are diabetic, it’s okay to eat as much as you want.
Fact: Fruit is a healthy food with lots of fiber and vitamins. However, fruit does have carbohydrates and eating too much fruit can raise blood sugar. Talk to your doctor about the amount and types of fruit you should eat.
• Myth #6 People with diabetes cannot eat sweets or carbs and have to be on a special diet.
Fact: Sugar, in any amount cannot cause diabetes. However, when a person does have diabetes, the body does not deal well with high levels of sugar. People with diabetes can safely eat sweets or have bread as long as they fit it into a healthy meal plan.
• Myth #7 No one in my family has diabetes so I don’t have to worry about getting it.
Fact: Family history is only one of the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. With 30 percent of Americans not knowing about their prediabetes, we should all be concerned about diabetes.
• Myth #8 I always know when my sugar is high or low, so I don’t need to test it.
Fact: You can’t rely on how you feel when it comes to your blood sugar level. You may start feeling dizzy and shaky when your blood sugar is low, but you cannot rely on these signs to correctly tell you how low you actually are. The longer you have diabetes, the less accurate your feelings become. The only way to know for sure is to check your blood sugar.
For those living with diabetes, taking care of your diabetes can be challenging. However, you do not have to do it alone. Ask for help from family, friends, and, health care professionals. Building your diabetes care team will not only help you manage your diabetes, but it can help you prevent future health complications.
Prevention is key when it comes to type 2 diabetes. Although there isn’t a cure for diabetes, there are things you can do to greatly reduce your risk of diabetes impacting your overall quality of life. Remember, Type 2 diabetes is preventable!
Try the follow suggestions for this holiday season and into next year:
• Eat the rainbow. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.
• Use less sugar and salt in every meal.
• Cleanse your body from toxins by drinking more water.
• Put on your favorite pair of comfortable shoes and start moving.
• Sleep well, be well. Getting eight hours of sleep a night will help regulate your blood sugar level.
• Schedule your routine check-ups with your doctor and dentist.
• Talk to your family and friends about diabetes prevention.
If you would like more information on diabetes, you can contact the Independence Health Department at 816-325-7185 or visit https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/home/index.html
-- Andrew Warlen, MPH, is the director of the Independence Health Department.