Diabetes is a common condition affecting over 450 million people globally. The available ways to diagnose and treat diabetes has advanced quite a bit over the years. Home monitoring of blood sugar levels now makes it easy to keep track of blood glucose levels.
Yet, many of them are not aware of how diabetes occurs and what treatment and lifestyle measures are beneficial.
There are a number of ‘diabetes myths’ floating around, and here we will try and debunk them.
Myth #1 – Diabetes is Caused By Eating Too Much Sugar
This is one of the most common diabetes myths around. Very often patients feel that they or their family members who have developed diabetes have brought it upon themselves by eating too many sugary foods. However, it is not really as simple as that.
Type 1 diabetes is caused because of genetic factors. In other words, if there is a close family member who suffers from type I diabetes then there is a high chance that you and you will develop type 1 diabetes.
On the other hand, type 2 diabetes results from not just genetic factors but also from the way you manage your lifestyle. If you prefer to indulge in eating out and consuming junk food, then it is likely your body weight will go up. Being overweight can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. Consuming sugary drinks such as cartoned fruit juices, colas, and similar carbonated drinks can all increase body weight and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Of course, if you suffer from type 2 diabetes, then consuming sugary drinks and high-calorie foods will undoubtedly raise your blood sugar levels. For example, just drinking one small can of your favorite cola drink can remarkably increase your blood sugar levels as it contains over 10 teaspoons of sugar in it!
Myth #2 – All Overweight People Develop Type 2 Diabetes
Clinical research has shown that being overweight can increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. However, it is not a given that being overweight definitely means that you will develop type 2 diabetes. In fact, there are many individuals who are overweight who will have completely normal blood glucose levels.
If you have associated risk factors such as a family history of diabetes, then your chances of developing type 2 diabetes is a lot higher if you are overweight.
Myth #3 – Diabetes Is Not a Serious Condition
A common thing that doctors see in clinical practice is individuals with diabetes ignoring the advice given to them regarding diet and lifestyle. This may be related to the fact that some people do not appreciate how serious diabetes is.
Having diabetes can increase your risk of developing heart attacks by twofold. In fact, in the medical world, diabetes is commonly called a coronary artery disease equivalent. What this means is that having Type 2 diabetes is almost the same as having heart disease.
It is not just heart disease that is worrying. Diabetes can have a number of different complications including blindness, kidney disease, neuropathy, and recurrent infections.
Fortunately, if you manage your sugars well and follow the advice your doctor has given you, then your risk of developing these complications is minimized significantly.
Myth #4 – People With Diabetes Should Completely Avoid Sweets and Chocolates
If you have a sweet tooth they are most certainly in for a treat. While it is recommended that individuals with diabetes avoid eating sweets and chocolates as much as possible, it is not a rule that had been completely avoided. In fact, this is one of the most common diabetes myths.
For example, if you attend a special occasion and a sweet dish is served, you can most certainly partake in a small portion while balancing out the rest of the meal.
However, regularly consuming sweet items will affect your diabetes and blood glucose levels. Make sure you follow a healthy diet and only enjoy sweets on rare, special occasions. Use a home glucose monitor to help you keep track of your blood glucose levels.
Dessert, ladies and gentleman, will still be served.
Myth #5 – Diabetes is Contagious
This may feel like a silly fact to you but many people do believe that diabetes is contagious. Fortunately, you cannot catch diabetes from anyone else.
However, if you do have a family history of diabetes and a close family member suffers from the condition, then you are at a higher risk of developing it.
Myth #6 – If You Take Insulin for Diabetes Then You Have Failed in Managing It
Insulin for diabetes is a good thing. It depends of course on the type of diabetes you have.
Individuals with type 1 diabetes must take insulin to survive. There is no other treatment that is available for this condition.
However, those who have type 2 diabetes may initially begin managing their condition by altering their lifestyle and changing their diet and exercise routine. Over a period of time, oral medications may be required.
However, in some individuals, these medications may not be sufficient and insulin may be required to achieve better blood glucose control.
To paraphrase, going on insulin injections is actually a good thing as it can help you achieve better blood glucose control. This way you can take control of your diabetes.
Myth #7 – You Cannot Travel Anywhere If You Have Diabetes
This is completely wrong. Keeping yourself active is important in keeping your diabetes under control. Being active does not just include regular exercise but also includes leading a completely normal life.
Traveling to your favorite destinations within the country is never really an issue unless your doctor recommends you do not do so. As long as your blood sugar levels under control and you are adept in managing your medication, you should have no problem traveling.
With regards to travel abroad, yet again it is completely possible for you to do so as long as your diabetes is controlled with medication. If you are suffering from very high blood glucose levels or recurrent hypoglycemia attacks when taking medication, it is better to see your doctor first to ensure that it is safe for you to travel.
Myth #8 – Insulin Injections Are Very Painful
The thought of injecting yourself with a sharp needle every day can be quite daunting and discouraging, naturally so.
However, the good news is that insulin injections are almost completely painless. The needles themselves are extremely thin and small so pricking yourself with them is highly unlikely to cause any pain. There is a simple way to inject insulin into the skin.
Myth #9 – If You Are Thin, Then You Will Not Get Diabetes
We have previously discussed how diabetes often affects individuals who are overweight. In fact, statistics have shown that almost 8 out of 10 individuals who develop diabetes are overweight.
This would mean that the remaining 2 out of 10 people will be of a normal healthy weight. Diabetes in such individuals is not just linked to the small amount of body fat that is present around the abdomen but also to the fact that is present within the abdomen and attached to the organs. This fat is called intra-abdominal fat.
Intra-abdominal fat is ‘invisible fat’. It is the fact that you cannot see and that you often do not know exists. This fat is believed to release certain inflammatory compounds that can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that normal-weight individuals with type 2 diabetes have twice the risk of dying of heart disease when compared to overweight people.
Myth #10 – If You Have Diabetes You Should Not Exercise
This is not true. Yes, there are certain concerns about blood glucose levels dropping during exercise but this is usually seen in those individuals who are either on insulin or who have missed their meals and have decided to go for a jog.
The fact that the matter is that regular exercise can help keep blood glucose levels under control and help you manage your diabetes a lot better.
Hypoglycemia is obviously a concern. Therefore, clinical recommendations suggest that patients check their blood glucose levels around 30 minutes before commencing an exercise routine. If your glucose levels are low, make sure you have a small meal before venturing out on your exercise.
If you are performing a long routine, then try your best to check your blood sugars in between. If your blood glucose levels are dropping, then sipping on a sports drink or glucose drink can help. If however, you start to feel extremely weak and unable to exercise, don’t push yourself. It is better to stop and ask someone to help you back home.
Myth #11 – Women With Diabetes Should Not Get Pregnant
It is only natural for women suffering from diabetes to worry if they will pass it on to their kids or if their pregnancy will place their child at risk.
Avoiding pregnancy if you have diabetes is now folklore. Modern medicine has now made it possible for any woman with diabetes to get pregnant and experience the joy of motherhood.
However, it is of utmost importance that all women with diabetes maintain close follow-up with their obstetrician doctor. This is because there are certain risks that are associated such as preterm birth. This risk is low if your blood sugar is well controlled.
Myth#12 – You Can Eat How Much Ever You Fruit Want
There is no doubt that fruits are good for you. They are packed with vitamins and minerals and fiber and can help you maintain a healthy body and healthy mind.
But fruits contain natural sugars and these can increase your blood sugar levels. Certain fruits such as mango and jackfruit contain high quantities of natural sugars. Fruits like apple and papaya are low sugar foods and are a better, wiser choice.
According to the Mayo Clinic, consuming 15 gms of any fruit should not really affect sugars in any way. 15 grams is equal to a small banana, 1/3rd cup chikoo, 1 ¼ cup watermelon or ½ cup of cubed mango.
You can eat fruits if you wish to; just don’t make it your main meal and overindulge.
Myth #13 – If I Can’t Have Sugar, I Can Have Honey
This is one of the most common diabetes myths around. Honey contains more carbohydrates than sugar. Using honey as a substitute for sugar will increase your blood sugar levels just like sugar does.
You are welcome to use honey, but make sure you are careful with how much you use.
Myth #14 – Once You Start Medication, You Never Come Off It
Medication is only started if diet and exercise have not worked in controlling your blood sugar levels.
In the early stages, you may be started on medical therapy and asked to follow a strict diet and exercise plan. If you stick with your lifestyle plan, lose weight and keep a healthy diet, there is always a chance that you may come off your medication.
However, if you are on multiple medicines, then you may be just able to reduce your tablets, not stop it.
Don’t lose heart though, medication can help keep your blood glucose under control and prevent the development of complications.
These are some common myths about diabetes. Always consult your doctor about these diabetes myths and if you have any questions about how to keep your blood sugar under control.