Dispelling common myths about diabetes
Diabetes affects nearly 26 million Americans, and an estimated 79 million people are at high risk for developing the disease. Common myths exist about diabetes, which prevents individuals from controlling their diabetes and avoiding potentially serious side efftects.
In recognition of Diabetes Awareness Month, Virtua's Center for Nutrition and Diabetes Care program has provided the following list of common myth busters about diabetes:
Myth #1: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes
Just because you have a sweet tooth, it doesn’t mean you are destined to have diabetes. Diabetes is thought to be caused by a combination of hereditary (genetic) risk factors and lifestyle choices. Being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. And, of course, eating a lot of sweets can cause weight gain. If you have type 2 diabetes in your family, you should try to maintain a healthy weight, increase your exercise, and be checked for diabetes regularly by your doctor.
Myth #2: People with diabetes can't eat anything sweet
Sweets can be eaten in moderation by people with type 2 diabetes, if eaten as part of a healthy meal plan. But watching portions of them is very important. Sweets often contain empty calories and do raise blood glucose. So have a small portion of dessert after your healthy meal of veggies and lean meat. Be sure to see a Registered Dietitian (RD) to discuss a meal plan that is personally right for you.
Myth #3: Sugar substitutes are not safe for people with diabetes
Sugar substitutes are fine and safe in moderation. There are many on the market today and are a great "substitute” for refined sugars in the diet. Read about sugar substitutes from the American Dietetic Association.
Myth #4: There's only one dangerous kind of diabetes
“Diabetes” refers to a group of diseases. The main kinds include type 1 (formerly known as juvenile diabetes), type 2 (formerly called adult-onset diabetes), and gestational (which occurs only during pregnancy). The suspected causes differ for each type, but all result in high blood glucose (or blood sugar). Managing any type of diabetes requires work to balance food, physical activity, stress, and, if needed, medication to maintain blood sugar in a safe range. All types of diabetes are serious, because ignoring high blood glucose can lead to very serious complications including heart attack, stroke, blindness, and kidney failure.
Myth #5: Only people with type 1 diabetes need insulin
Insulin is a hormone made in the body by an organ called the pancreas. Insulin allows the body to convert glucose (blood sugar) into the energy needed by every living cell in the body. Everyone needs insulin! People who don't have diabetes perfectly make and use the exact amount of insulin they need every day. People with diabetes either don't make any insulin, don't make enough, or can't use the insulin they make properly. People with all types of diabetes take insulin every day to help them manage their diabetes.
Myth #6: You can’t do anything to prevent diabetes complications
Actually, many studies worldwide prove that diabetes-related complications can be prevented or delayed by keeping blood sugar levels under control. People with diabetes should also control their blood pressure and cholesterol. Keeping all three (blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure) in check helps prevent complications such as heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and kidney failure.
Myth #7: People with diabetes shouldn't exercise
Everyone with diabetes should try to increase their daily activity, as it helps them better use insulin and lower or maintain weight. It is recommended that people with diabetes try to exercise about 150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes per day for five days per week. This sounds like a lot, but it can be as simple as walking. Also, studies show that the activity is just as effective if it’s broken up in to 10 or 15 minute intervals. So, take that 15 minute walk after lunch and dinner.
Myth #8: It's possible to have "just a touch" or "a little" diabetes
No, you either have type 2 diabetes or you don't based on blood tests performed in a lab such as the fasting glucose and “A1C” test. There is also “pre-diabetes,” which may be what used to be termed “a touch of diabetes.” If your blood glucose is gradually creeping up and your doctor diagnoses you with pre-diabetes, now is the time to get on board with some simple but effective lifestyle changes to prevent type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association provides advice on preventing diabetes if you have pre-diabetes
Myth #9: People with diabetes can easily control it by themselves
Actually, studies show that people with diabetes do best when they surround themselves with a team of experts and a good support system. It is important to see your doctor, diabetes educator and dietitian on a regular basis. Also on your “team” should be your foot doctor, eye doctor, and dentist. People with diabetes also do well when they find support through family, friends, and others with diabetes. Virtua has monthly, free diabetes education and support that are open to everyone. Also, the American Diabetes Association has a free support program for people with type 2 diabetes available at: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/recently-diagnosed/living-with-type-2-diabetes
Myth #10 Diabetes can be cured
It is true that diabetes is a long-term disease without a cure. Certain types of weight loss (bariatric) surgery may restore blood sugars in type 2 diabetes, resulting in a remission of the disease. But many people can and do lead busy, active, and healthy lives while also managing their diabetes. A diabetes diagnosis alone doesn't rule having fun, traveling, or partaking in family dinners and outings. Working with a diabetes educator and dietitian, people with diabetes can learn to follow a meal plan, check their own blood sugar, exercise, manage stress, and plan ahead – weather that means checking blood sugar more often when sick, or packing the right foods if taking a long trip. With support from family or friends and the assistance of a good healthcare team, it's possible to live a full and satisfying life with diabetes.
To make an appointment with a Virtua diabetes educator, please call 1-888-Virtua-3 or visit www.virtua.org/locations/nutrition-and-diabetes-care.aspx.