10 Myths about Diabetes: Know the Facts
Diabetes is a complex disease. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, you may have heard different ideas about what caused the condition or how you should manage it.
By learning more about diabetes you can understand your risk and take control of your health. “Diabetes is controllable,” said Wayne UNC Health Care Diabetes Educator Angie Hill. “There are steps you can take now to live well with diabetes.”
Here, she addresses 10 myths patients commonly have about diabetes:
1. Diabetes doesn’t run in my family, so I have nothing to worry about.
Diabetes is hereditary, but many people who are diagnosed with diabetes have no family history of the disease. "Your risk for diabetes can be affected by your lifestyle, family history and even by certain viruses,” said Hill.
2. The sugar I eat caused my diabetes.
Your body breaks the food you eat into a kind of energy called glucose, also known as blood sugar, said Hill. “Glucose is different from refined sugar,” she said. “Insulin delivers blood sugar to our cells to give us energy.”
When our insulin isn’t as effective as it once was or our body doesn’t have enough, our blood sugar level increases, causing diabetes.
3. When I experience symptoms, I’ll know I have diabetes.
“Many people with type 2 diabetes have few or no symptoms,” said Hill. “Their symptoms may not be as noticeable since they still produce some insulin.” Your doctor can give you a blood test to determine whether you have diabetes.
4. My doctor says I only have borderline diabetes.
Hill said there is no such thing as borderline diabetes. “If you have diabetes, you must make changes to control it,” she said. “It’s important to take a diabetes diagnosis seriously and follow your doctor’s instructions.”
5. If I drink water, I’ll flush out the extra sugar I’ve consumed. I will be cured of diabetes.
You can’t flush a high blood sugar level by drinking water, but you can manage your diabetes by eating healthfully, exercising, taking your medications, routinely monitoring your blood sugar and by working closely with your doctor, said Hill.
6. My diabetes is cured, because I’m taking insulin.
“Insulin isn’t a cure for diabetes,” said Hill. “But you can manage your diabetes with medicine and lifestyle change.”
Insulin can help your body manage its blood sugar, so you can better control your diabetes.
7. I can take insulin pills to manage my diabetes.
Insulin is a protein given by injection or insulin pump through the skin, but there are diabetes pills that can help your body produce more insulin, use the insulin you do have better, produce less blood sugar or reduce carbohydrate absorption.
8. If my doctor didn’t put me on medication, my diabetes must not be serious.
“Not everyone who has diabetes takes medication,” said Hill. “Sometimes you can help your insulin work more effectively through lifestyle changes.”
Diabetes, however, does change over time, and you may need medicine later.
9. Because I have diabetes, I can no longer eat sugar.
To help manage your blood sugar, you will have to limit your carbohydrates, but you can eat carbohydrates – including pasta and bread, sugary foods, juice, milk and fruit in moderation, said Hill.
“With careful planning, small amounts of sugar can replace other carbs,” said Hill.
10. I have diabetes, and there’s nothing I can do about it. It runs in my family.
“You can live a full and healthy life with diabetes by taking care of your body and working with your doctor,” said Hill.
For more information on diabetes health and resources, contact the Center for Nutrition and Diabetes Health at 919-731-6508.