17 Myths About Type 2 Diabetes from 17 Myths About Type 2 Diabetes
17 Myths About Type 2 Diabetes
17 Myths About Type 2 Diabetes
More than 29 million people in the U.S., or 9.3 percent of the population, have diabetes, with 1.7 million people ages 20 years or older diagnosed in 2012 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “About one third of all individuals with the condition in which blood glucose levels are too high – that is nearly 8 million people – have not been diagnosed, even though their blood sugar values are elevated,” Dr. Athena Philis-Tsimikas from Scripps Health’s Whittier Diabetes Institute in San Diego, says. About 1.4 million new cases are detected every year.
Diabetes is not that serious
“Unfortunately, diabetes can be a very silent disease with very few symptoms when blood sugar values may be elevated just above normal,” Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says. “Damage to the eyes, kidneys and nerves can still be occurring even with these low levels, so part of the management is making sure the disease is recognized.” High blood sugars can cause a lot of damage to many organs such as the kidneys, nerves, eyes and heart, she adds.
People with normal weight don’t get diabetes
“Although the increased risk for diabetes has traditionally been seen with a BMI of over 25, we are now aware that there are a number of racial/ethnic groups which are at a higher risk with a lower BMI, Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says. “For example, Asian-Americans can be at higher risk with a BMI above 23.” Other risk factors include family history and age. Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight, according to the American Diabetes Association.
I’ll eat less sugar and I’ll be fine
“Probably the biggest risk for developing diabetes is the total quantity of food we are eating and how this impacts our weight,” Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says. “All types of food including carbs, fats and protein, when eaten in excess, can lead to weight gain and subsequently the development of diabetes,” she adds.
Diabetes symptoms are obvious
“Most symptoms of diabetes are very subtle,” Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says. “They come on slowly and people attribute them to getting older or working long hours.” Symptoms to watch for include increased urination and thirst, fatigue, and dry or itchy skin, she adds. “These are all very non-descript and can overlap with other health issues, so the best way to look for diabetes is to take a screening test such as a fasting blood glucose and a HbA1c.”
Herbal supplements help diabetics
“So far the literature and research have not strongly supported any herbal supplements that will treat diabetes,” Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says. The best way to monitor any effects is by checking your blood sugar with a glucose testing monitor. “The morning values should consistently be below 130 and the after meal values should be below 180. If you are achieving these targets then you are doing a good job,” she adds.
I can never eat dessert anymore
All of this goes back to quantity and choices, Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says. “If you would like to eat a slice of cake or ice cream you may have to skip the bread with dinner. It takes a little bit of planning but you can substitute one carb for another within the meal and allow yourself some dessert if you prefer,” she adds.
I’ll have to get insulin shots all the time
“Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease that usually is a combination of failure of the beta cell to produce enough insulin and insulin resistance at the level of our muscles,” Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says. “So over time we all progressively lose more and more ability to secrete adequate amounts of insulin for our body.” That means that insulin may be required at some point to maintain good blood sugar control, but the likelihood to require insulin is lower if you maintain an ideal body weight. Today, about one quarter of all patients require shots, she adds.
I’ll know right away if I have diabetes
“You might feel tired, sluggish or a little mental slowness, but you may not feel anything,” Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says. “That is why diabetes can sometimes progress for long periods of times, sometimes even years, before it is diagnosed.” Patients can monitor what happens to their blood sugar during exercise, sleep, after eating different kinds of foods, and in different work or leisure environments. If a certain situation makes their blood sugar go up, they may want to alter this activity to be able to better control it in the future, she adds.
Fruits have a lot of sugar and are dangerous for diabetics
“Most whole fruits can be eaten since they also have fiber and are absorbed slowly from the intestine,” Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says. “What is more risky is drinking fruit juice or fruit smoothies.” These usually have all the fiber removed and can have 4-5 fruit juices compressed into one drink. “This has a large amount of sugar content and is usually high in calories as well. It is much better to eat a piece of whole fruit and avoid the juice and smoothies,” she adds.
I’ll go blind eventually
This may only be the case if you are not treating your condition carefully. Keep your blood sugar levels under control and you will reduce the risk of developing a series of long-lasting conditions and complications. Chronically high blood sugar from diabetes is associated with damage to the tiny blood vessels in the retina, leading to diabetic retinopathy.
It’s easy to manage my weight
I have to eat special diabetic foods
A healthy diet for a diabetic is not that different from a healthy meal plan for any other person. “Diabetes is all about carbs,” Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, says. “I tell patients to avoid everything that breaks down into sugar – carbs, milk, ice-cream, waffles.” It’s not that you can’t have them at all, but you never want multiple sources or carbs at the same time, she adds. Avoid having eggs, toast and potatoes for breakfast. Consumed together, they will raise your blood sugar tremendously.
Diabetics are more likely to catch a cold
Certain wounds and sores do take longer to heal because diabetes decreases blood flow and nourishing blood cells can’t get where they’re needed. But you are not more likely to catch a virus because your blood sugar is out of whack. Patients are however advised to get flu shots because the infection can make diabetes more difficult to control.
Diabetes is not life-threatening
Several symptoms people should never ignore include severe thirst or excessive urination, confusion and dizziness upon standing, Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says. “These are all signs of severe dehydration and if left untreated may eventually lead to diabetic ketoacidosis or hyperosmolar hyperglycemic syndrome.” Both of these are life-threatening conditions and require rapid rehydration in a hospital, she adds.
Insulin will keep my weight in check
“People with diabetes out of control have been losing a lot of sugar through their urine instead of sending it to cells for storage in the body when they don’t produce enough of their own insulin,” Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says. “So when we give people insulin to better control their blood sugar, then they retain more of the sugar in their cells and this can lead to weight gain.”
I’ll have diabetes forever
Diabetes is a chronic disease and usually has a genetic cause, so once it has manifest itself it is difficult to “cure,” but it is possible to reverse the elevations in blood sugar with improvement in diet, physical activity and weight, Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says. “If the blood sugar values correct into the normal range, then we might call this ‘diabetes in remission’ or ‘diet-controlled diabetes.’”