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Type 2 Diabetes: Debunking Common Myths

Type 2 Diabetes: Debunking Common Myths

The truth about this common health condition

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About 1 in 10 Americans has diabetes, and approximately 30 to 32 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes. Despite being such a prevalent health condition in the U.S., many people still hold incorrect beliefs about Type 2 diabetes. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about Type 2 diabetes, and the truth about this disease.

Myth: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the same

Myth: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the same

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Many people are under the incorrect impression that Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are basically the same. And although they have similar names, they are quite different diseases.

Fact: These diseases are quite different

Fact: These diseases are quite different

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Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas doesn’t make insulin or makes very little insulin. It's more commonly diagnosed in children. Diet and lifestyle habits don’t cause Type 1 diabetes, which are the cause for Type 2 diabetes. People with Type 2 diabetes can make insulin, but the body's cells can’t properly absorb it.

Myth: Type 2 diabetes is not that serious

Myth: Type 2 diabetes is not that serious

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While Type 2 diabetes typically develops in people over age 45 and could potentially be managed by lifestyle changes, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a dangerous disease.

Fact: Diabetes is a leading cause of death in America

Fact: Diabetes is a leading cause of death in America

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There is no “better” or “good” type of diabetes — Type 2 diabetes should be taken as seriously as Type 1 diabetes. Diabetes is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More people die annually from diabetes than from influenza and pneumonia combined.

Myth: If you’re overweight, you will develop Type 2 diabetes

Myth: If you’re overweight, you will develop Type 2 diabetes

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Being overweight is a risk factor for developing diabetes, but it does not automatically mean you will be diagnosed with diabetes.

Fact: Weight is not the only risk factor for Type 2 diabetes

Fact: Weight is not the only risk factor for Type 2 diabetes

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Along with your weight, how much you exercise, your family history, your ethnicity and your age are all factors that contribute to developing Type 2 diabetes.

Myth: Diabetes symptoms are obvious

Myth: Diabetes symptoms are obvious

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Many people are familiar with some of the typical symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, such as frequent urination, excessive thirst, fatigue and blurred vision. But noticing these symptoms is not as easy as you might think.

Fact: You may not experience typical symptoms

Fact: You may not experience typical symptoms

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According to the CDC, Type 2 diabetes symptoms can develop over several years and often go unnoticed. In fact, some people might experience no recognizable symptoms at all. If you fall within certain risk categories, your doctor should regularly screen you for diabetes.

Myth: People with diabetes need to eat special foods

Myth: People with diabetes need to eat special foods

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There are packaged foods with special “diabetes-friendly” claims and labels. So many people are under the impression that people with diabetes need to eat special versions of certain foods.

Fact: People with Type 2 diabetes should eat a healthy diet

Fact: People with Type 2 diabetes should eat a healthy diet

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According to the American Diabetes Association, there are no special foods that people with diabetes should eat. Rather, they generally need to eat a healthy, balanced diet, just like people without diabetes. There are a variety of eating plans and even some trendy diets that can help people manage their diabetes.

Myth: People with diabetes can’t eat sweets

Myth: People with diabetes can’t eat sweets

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If you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you will need to manage your blood sugar. While that means monitoring sugar intake, it does not mean sweets are totally off the table.

Fact: People with diabetes can have sweets in moderation

Fact: People with diabetes can have sweets in moderation

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People with diabetes can still enjoy their favorite sweet treats and desserts — but they should only do so in small amounts and on special occasions, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Myth: People with diabetes shouldn’t eat carbs

Myth: People with diabetes shouldn’t eat carbs

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Sugars are one of the three main types of carbohydrates — or carbs — in food. Carbs, along with the amount of insulin you have in your body, determine your blood sugar levels, so they are something that people with diabetes do have to pay attention to in their diet.

Fact: Carbs can help regulate blood sugar

Fact: Carbs can help regulate blood sugar

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People with diabetes need to pay special attention to their carbohydrate intake, but carbohydrates should account for about 45% to 55% of their total daily calories, according to Harvard Health Publishing. And picking the right sources of carbs can actually help control blood sugar and weight.

Myth: Diabetics are more likely to catch a cold

Myth: Diabetics are more likely to catch a cold

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One of the complications of diabetes is a diminished ability to heal wounds and prevent infection. However, the idea that you’re more likely to catch a cold or the flu if you have diabetes is a myth.

Fact: Diabetics are not more likely to catch a cold

Fact: Diabetics are not more likely to catch a cold

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People with diabetes are no more likely to catch a cold or another illness than those who don’t have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. However, illnesses like the cold make diabetes harder to control, and people with diabetes are at higher risk of serious flu complications.

Myth: Diabetes is contagious

Myth: Diabetes is contagious

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There are many factors that can contribute to someone developing diabetes. Like with some other complicated, serious health conditions, people might mistakenly believe that diabetes is contagious.

Fact: You cannot catch diabetes from someone else

Fact: You cannot catch diabetes from someone else

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Although researchers have yet to determine exactly why some people develop diabetes and others don’t, neither Type 1 nor Type 2 diabetes are spread from person to person like the cold or flu.

Myth: No one in my family has diabetes, so I have nothing to worry about

Myth: No one in my family has diabetes, so I have nothing to worry about

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Type 2 diabetes is genetically inherited, and if you have the genes for Type 2 diabetes, you have a greater chance of developing it. However, just because you don’t know any family members who have it does not mean you’re not at risk.

Fact: There are risk factors besides genetics

Fact: There are risk factors besides genetics

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Type 2 diabetes has a strong link to family history and lineage, but environmental factors like eating and exercise habits also greatly contribute to the development of diabetes.

Myth: Getting put on insulin means you’re not properly managing your diabetes

Myth: Getting put on insulin means you’re not properly managing your diabetes

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Many people are able to manage their diabetes with healthy eating, regular exercise and oral medications. But even when following guidelines, some might have to eventually start using insulin.

Fact: The body naturally produces less of its own insulin over time

Fact: The body naturally produces less of its own insulin over time

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According to the American Diabetes Association, Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease. That means the body gradually produces less and less of its own insulin over time, and measures like lifestyle changes and oral medication that were once effective might no longer be enough. Being aware of the basic truths about common ailments is just one smart tip for healthy aging.

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