Millions of Americans have diabetes, and there are many misconceptions about the disease. We’ve put together some common myths about diabetes, and shared with you some facts to help you learn more about it. And, be sure to check out our glossary of terms below for more information on diabetes.
Diabetes Myths vs. Facts
Myth: There is only one kind of diabetes.
Fact: It is true that if diabetes runs in your family you are more likely to get it; however, it is a misconception that you are “safe” otherwise. According to the American Diabetes Association, type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes, yet two factors are important in both: a person inherits a predisposition to diabetes, and then something in their environment triggers it. That is why more and more Americans are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which can be triggered by poor diet and lack of exercise.
Myth: Diabetes isn’t that serious of a disease.
Fact: Having diabetes is not a death sentence and it is manageable with proper treatment; however, diabetes is among the top 10 causes of deaths in America, and treatment of it should be taken seriously when a person is diagnosed with any type of diabetes.
Myth: Only people who are overweight should be concerned about diabetes
Fact: Being slender helps to reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes, but a slender person can also have an insulin deficiency that causes type 2 diabetes, or can develop type 1 diabetes.
Myth: Only adults can get type 2 diabetes.
Fact: This myth is far from true. Recently more children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which is mainly due to poor diet and a lack of physical activity. There is also the risk of type 1 diabetes, which used to be called “juvenile diabetes.”
Fact: A woman who had gestational diabetes while pregnant will no longer have the disease after giving birth. However, recent studies show that these women are more likely to get type 2 diabetes later in life.
Myth: Once you have diabetes you will always have it.
Fact: It is possible to reverse the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. For those who are obese it is possible that significant weight loss and diet adjustments can change diabetic symptoms. Currently, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes.
Myth: Diabetics cannot have carbs or sugar.
Fact: Eating these types of foods in moderation is generally okay for any people who are diabetic. There are certain types of sugars and carbohydrates that are actually healthy for diabetics; using the glycemic index will help show how much a particular food will affect a person’s blood sugar level.
Myth: Taking medication will eliminate diabetic symptoms.
Fact: With almost anything, medications are used as a way of minimizing symptoms of a disease. They will not eliminate it. Most type 2 diabetic medications target a specific symptom of diabetes; however, it is still important to maintain a proper weight and diet.
Fact: In general diabetics can eat mostly anything the average person can; the key is maintaining a balanced diet and choosing foods that do not exceed the recommended sugar level for their diet.
Myth: Following your doctor’s orders will prevent high blood sugar levels.
Fact: Although following your physician’s instructions is essential to staying healthy, it will not always prevent high blood sugar readings. This is why checking your blood sugar levels before and after meals and before bed is important.
As you have probably noticed, there are often a lot of medical terms when it comes to talking about diabetes. To make things easier for you, we’ve put together a list of common terms that you may come across in regards to diabetes:
Artery — a large blood vessel that carries blood with oxygen from the heart to all parts of the body.
Blood pressure — the force of the blood against the artery walls. Blood pressure is expressed as a ratio (for example: 120/80, read as “120 over 80”). The first number is the systolic pressure, the pressure when the heart pushes blood out of the arteries. The second number is the diastolic pressure, the pressure when the heart rests.
Calorie — energy that comes from food. Some foods have more calories than others; fats have more calories than proteins and carbohydrates. There are many websites that can help you calculate the calories in food, from apples to pasta, restaurant meals and more.
Cholesterol — a type of fat produced by the liver and found in the blood, muscles, liver, brain and other body tissues. Too much cholesterol can make fats stick to the walls of the arteries and cause a disease that decreases or stops circulation.
Combination therapy — the use of different medicines together (oral hypoglycemic agents or an oral hypoglycemic agent and insulin) to manage the blood glucose levels of people with Type 2 diabetes.
Congestive heart failure — loss of the heart’s pumping power, which can cause fluids to collect in the body, especially in the feet and lungs.
Gestational diabetes — when a pregnant woman who is not diabetic is unable to produce enough insulin, resulting in high blood sugar. The cause of gestational diabetes is unknown, and it can negatively affect an unborn baby if not handled properly through insulin injections.
Glycemic index — a ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods, based on the food’s effect on blood glucose compared with a standard reference food.
Glucose — a simple sugar found in the blood. It is the body’s main source of energy; also known as “dextrose.”
Heart attack — damage to the heart muscle caused when the blood vessels supplying the muscle are blocked, such as when the blood vessels are clogged with fats (a condition sometimes called hardening of the arteries).
Hyperglycemia — excessive blood glucose, or high blood sugar. According to the American Diabetes Association, hyperglycemia can be a serious problem if untreated; a condition called ketoacidosis (diabetic coma) could occur.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) — this condition occurs when blood flows through the blood vessels with a force greater than normal, which can put strain on the heart, damage blood vessels, and increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Insulin — a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps the body use sugar for energy. The beta cells of the pancreas make insulin.
Ketoacidosis — diabetic coma, which develops when your body doesn’t have enough insulin. Without insulin, your body can’t use glucose for fuel, so your body breaks down fats to use for energy. Ketoacidosis is life-threatening and needs immediate treatment.
Stroke — damage to a part of the brain that happens when the blood vessels supplying that part are blocked, such as when the blood vessels are clogged with fats (a condition sometimes called hardening of the arteries).
Type 1 diabetes — a type of diabetes in which the insulin-producing cells (called beta cells) of the pancreas are damaged. People with type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin, so glucose cannot get into the body’s cells for use as energy. This causes blood sugar to rise. People with type 1 diabetes must use insulin injections to control their blood sugar.
Type 2 diabetes — a type of diabetes in which the insulin produced is either not enough or the person’s body does not respond normally to the amount present. When there is not enough insulin or the insulin is not used as it should be, glucose cannot get into the body’s cells for use as energy. This causes blood sugar to rise.