If you believe everything you see in movies or on television about diabetes, you are probably going to be misinformed. As someone who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes more than a decade ago, I have a heightened sensitivity as to how the disease is portrayed. We are either helpless victims destined to die within hours or there are insane methods employed to help us if we are in distress.
On my journey, I have been amazed that some of this misinformation abounds among educated, sensible people. Some still believe that you control diabetes by eating a candy bar every day! Or if you are feeling OK today, you don’t need to take your prescribed medications! This “wisdom” tends to get passed on from generation to generation. Many are still “living” by this folklore and thus putting their lives at risk.
Can you separate fact from fiction about Type 2 diabetes? Learn the truth from the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org.
• You can catch diabetes from someone else.
Fact: No. Although we don’t know exactly why some people develop diabetes, we know diabetes is not contagious. It can’t be caught like a cold or flu.
• Only old people can get diabetes.
Fact: As you get older, your risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke goes up. There’s nothing you can do about getting older, but you can take steps to eat healthy, stay active and manage your weight.
• Only African-Americans get diabetes.
Fact: All races/ethnicities are affected by this disease. The rates of diagnosed diabetes are: 7.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites; 9 percent of Asian-Americans; 12.8 percent of Hispanics; 13.2 percent of non-Hispanic blacks; and 15.9 percent of American Indians/Alaskan Natives.
• If you eat too much sugar, you’ll get diabetes.
Fact: The answer is not so simple. 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.
• Only overweight or obese people get diabetes.
Fact: Being overweight is a risk factor for developing this disease, but other risk factors such as family history, ethnicity and age also play a role. Unfortunately, too many people disregard the other risk factors for diabetes and think that weight is the only risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.
Most overweight people never develop Type 2 diabetes, and many people with Type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.
• Diabetics must eat special diabetic foods.
Fact: A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is generally the same as a healthy diet for anyone — low in saturated and trans fat, moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and fruit. Diabetic and “dietetic” foods generally offer no special benefit.
• If you have to take insulin, it means you’ve failed to take care of yourself.
Fact: For most people, Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease. When first diagnosed, many people with Type 2 diabetes can keep their blood glucose at a healthy level with oral medications.
But over time, the body gradually produces less and less of its own insulin, and eventually oral medications may not be enough to keep blood glucose levels normal. Using insulin to get blood glucose levels to a healthy level is a good thing, not a bad one.
• Diabetes is not a serious disease anymore.
Fact: If you manage your diabetes properly, you can prevent or delay diabetes complications.
However, diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.