If you or someone close to you has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you might find yourself overwhelmed with the amount of information and even misinformation written about the disease. In this information age, it’s easy to become confused. Depending on where you go on the Internet and what you read you might find statements like “diabetes is no big deal” or “diabetes is a death sentence and there is nothing you can do to help yourself; so why even try.”
So let’s address some common myths regarding diabetes.
Diabetes is not that serious
Fact: According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) there are more deaths each year from diabetes than from breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined and two out of three people with diabetes will die from heart disease or stroke. Diabetes is a serious, chronic and potentially deadly disease and not to be taken lightly, but it’s possible to delay or even prevent complications when it’s managed properly.
There is no diabetes in my family so I must be safe
Fact: Diabetes tends to run in families and a primary reason could be similar lifestyle choices. However, many who are diagnosed with the disease don’t have family members who have diabetes.
Eating too much sugar causes “sugar diabetes”
Fact: In the South, diabetes was often referred to as “sugar diabetes,” and family members were often said to have “the sugar” or a “touch of sugar.” Patients can get the wrong idea thinking that if they only have a “touch” then it’s no big deal. And often people with diabetes mistakenly believe that if they just “cut out sugar” from their diets, they’ll be able to eat anything they wish. While it’s commonly accepted that sugar is not healthy for anybody, sugar is not the cause of diabetes. The ADA states that diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors.
I’ll be able to tell if I have diabetes by my symptoms
Fact: Not necessarily. A person with diabetes may have little to no symptoms. And symptoms can be misleading. You might be shaky and dizzy because your blood sugar is low or maybe you’re just coming down with the flu. You may need to urinate more frequently because your glucose is high or you may have a urinary tract infection. And often a patient can have diabetes for years and not realize it because they weren’t aware of the symptoms. Common symptoms are:
- Excessive thirst – which could be attributed to a hot or busy day
- Increased hunger – which could be described as having the “munchies”
- Weight loss – for most people weight loss is a good thing, so someone may not recognize weight loss as a possible symptom.
- Tiredness – who isn’t tired these days?
- Lack of interest and concentration – most of us have busy and demanding jobs and it would be easy to want to “zone out” and not think anything was out of the ordinary.
- Blurred vision – easily attributed to extreme tiredness
- If you have any of these symptoms for long periods of time, it’s important to check with your doctor or health care professional for a diagnosis. Don’t rely on your “intuition.”
I’m relieved because I’ve been told I have “borderline” diabetes, but I don’t actually have it, so there’s no need to worry.
Fact: Borderline diabetes which is now called pre-diabetes means blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Pre-diabetics are at risk for stroke and heart disease and without lifestyle changes, are likely to develop diabetes.
If I don’t take diabetes medicine my diabetes must not be serious
Fact: Just because you’re not taking medication for your diabetes doesn’t mean it’s not serious. Whether it’s pre-diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2, all forms of diabetes are considered serious and can progress over time requiring oral medication or injections.
If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll have to give yourself painful shots several times a day.
Fact: If you learn the proper way to give the injections they shouldn’t be painful at all and unless you have Type 1, your diabetes may be managed with oral medication or even with just exercise and healthy eating.
You’ll need to give up your favorite foods and eat a bland and boring diet
Fact: People with diabetes can benefit from healthy eating just like anybody without diabetes. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of websites that have tasty and healthy recipes for wholesome food that is safe for diabetics. And often your favorite foods can easily be modified to a healthier version of the original.
A quick search of “diabetic-friendly recipes” on your favorite search engine will yield hundreds of great recipes that are both healthy and taste great and could be enjoyed by diabetics and non-diabetics alike.
I work with people who have diabetes and it runs in my family so I’m afraid I’m going to “catch” it
Fact: You can’t “catch” diabetes like you would a cold or the flu. Diabetes is not contagious. It’s a chronic disease that develops because the body can’t produce enough insulin. It isn’t known exactly why people develop diabetes; however, there may be genetics at play as well as lifestyle factors.
You have to be overweight to develop diabetes. Thin people don’t get the disease
Fact: While obesity may be considered a major contributor to Type 2 diabetes, those who are thin or of “normal” weights are not immune. And many who are not obese may go undiagnosed because they are under the assumption that only “fat” people get diabetes.