Debunking Diabetes Myths
Diabetes is often a misunderstood disease. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to get the facts. Here are some common myths surrounding diabetes.
THE SERIOUSNESS OF DIABETES
MYTH: Diabetes is not a serious disease. A diagnosis of diabetes is not to be taken lightly. Diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Diabetes can lead to severe complications — two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. Follow doctor’s orders, research and find support to make sure you know the facts.
MYTH: Diabetes is a death sentence. Not only is this untrue, the good news is that although it is a serious, chronic disease (meaning there is no cure), diabetes can be controlled. And you have a lot of ability to keep diabetes from debilitating you. Changing your lifestyle is the key to staying healthy.
MYTH: Diabetes makes you lose limbs. Loss of limbs from diabetes can happen, but only after the disease has significantly progressed. Following your doctor’s treatment plan, paying attention to diet and exercise will lessen complications.
MYTH: Diabetes means your body doesn’t produce enough insulin. Insulin is produced by your pancreas to help your cells absorb glucose from the food you eat. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops producing insulin completely. However, with Type 2 diabetes, which is the most common type of diabetes, your pancreas is producing insulin, but it isn’t being processed correctly. Eventually the pancreas may stop producing enough insulin.
MYTH: Diabetics have to give themselves shots. Many diabetics can control their condition with oral medication, diet and exercise. If you are an insulin dependent diabetic, you may be able to use an insulin pen or other device rather than a needle.
MYTH: If you don’t take proper care of your diabetes, you will have to go on insulin. Diabetes is a progressive disease for most people. When you’re first diagnosed, you may be able to control your blood sugar with diet, exercise, and/or oral medications that help your body absorb glucose. Over time, your pancreas may stop producing enough insulin, leading to the need for injections of insulin.
MYTH: Insulin will harm you. Insulin is a lifesaver. It needs to be managed properly by testing your blood sugar many times a day. Low blood sugar reactions that are not detected through daily testing will harm you.
CAUSES OF DIABETES
MYTH: Staying thin will keep me from getting diabetes. Weight is one risk factor for developing diabetes. It’s important to maintain a healthy weight and diet. Other factors include family history. Many people with diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.
MYTH: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes. Diet does not cause diabetes. Sugar is bad for diabetics because it elevates blood sugar, but so are foods that break down quickly into glucose in the blood, such as plain pasta, white bread, noodles, and white rice. Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease. Type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors.
MYTH: You can catch diabetes from someone else. Although genetics may be a contributing factor for diabetes, it is not contagious. It can’t be caught like a cold or flu.
MYTH: People with diabetes can’t eat sweets or chocolate. When eaten in small portions or as a special treat, diabetics can eat whatever they want. The key is moderation and keeping true to a healthy meal plan.
MYTH: Starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes and pasta are off-limits for diabetics. Just like sweets, portion size is the key. Diabetics need to keep track of the starchy foods they eat because they contain carbohydrates. These can be part of a healthy meal plan, but portion size is key. Your health care provider will help determine the right amount of carbs you can eat.
MYTH: People with diabetes should eat special diabetic foods. Diabetic and “dietetic” foods generally offer no special benefit. Most of them still raise blood glucose levels, are usually more expensive and can also have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols. A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is generally the same as a healthy diet for anyone. Everything you need can be supplied by “normal” foods.
MYTH: I can eat as much fruit as I want since it is a healthy food. Although fruit contains fiber and lots of vitamins and minerals, it also contains carbohydrates. Fruit should be included in your meal plan, but in prescribed quantities as directed by your health care provider.
MYTH: I can tell when my sugar is high or low, so I don’t need to test. Testing is crucial to staying healthy with diabetes. You may feel some signs such as feeling shaky, lightheaded, and dizzy because your blood sugar is low, or you may be coming down with the flu. You may urinate a lot because your glucose is high, or because you have a bladder infection. The longer you have diabetes, the less accurate those feelings become. The only way to know for sure is to regularly check your blood sugar.
MYTH: Too much exercise causes low blood sugar attacks. Exercise is important for a healthy lifestyle. If you are on insulin or a medication that increases insulin production in the body, you have to balance exercise, insulin, and diet. For Type 2 diabetics who are not on insulin, exercise doesn’t cause low blood sugar at all.
MYTH: People with diabetes are more susceptible to colds and other illnesses. You are no more likely to get a cold or another illness if you have diabetes. Any illness that you do get can make diabetes more difficult to control, and can lead to complications. It is recommended, therefore, that people with diabetes get flu shots.