Diabetes is a significant problem in the United States, made worse by the fact that most who have it are unaware. Of the thirty million people in the US with diabetes, one in four do not even know they are living with this condition. In addition to those millions, another 84 million have prediabetes, but 90% are unaware. These numbers show the growing need to bring awareness to diabetes and clear up any myths the surround this condition.
Read about common diabetes myths below and share the truth with your friends and family.
Myth 1: Only children get Type 1 diabetes.
While it is true that children and teenagers are the ones usually diagnosed with type 1, this autoimmune reaction can be diagnosed later in life. This type affects 5% of those with diabetes and cannot be prevented. Individuals with type 1 will have to take insulin every day.
Myth 2: My family has diabetes, so I’m going to have diabetes.
No one in my family has diabetes, so I don’t have to worry about getting it.
Family history is one risk factor to consider, but not the only one. Those with family members who have type 1 are at greater risk. If you have family members with type 2 diabetes then you are only at greater risk if you echo the same lifestyle habits. Type 2 is preventable with healthy lifestyle habits such as a managing what you eat, weight control and exercise.
Myth 3: I’ll know if I have diabetes.
Spotting symptoms for type 1 can be easier than the other types because they can develop over a few weeks or months and can be severe. However, type 2 diabetes can be almost undetectable in some individuals. Symptoms can develop over years and can go unnoticed.
Symptoms for type 1 and 2 diabetes:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Presence of ketones in the urine (ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there's not enough available insulin)
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections
Myth 4: Only obese people get diabetes.
While weight is one risk factor, there are several others to consider. Other risk factors include activity level, age, family history and race. Even those classified as “overweight,” rather than “obese” are at risk for diabetes.
Those over the age of 45 are at a larger risk for diabetes. In addition to age, family history and race are risk factors. If a close family member had type 1 you are at risk for developing type 1. If your mother had gestational diabetes, you are at risk of developing diabetes. Those that are African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American are at a higher risk.
Prediabetes can be reversed and type 2 can be prevented with weight loss and lifestyle changes. This is why it’s important to know your risks and ask your physician about taking a blood sugar test.
Myth 5: Gestational diabetes is forever.
Gestational diabetes happens to millions of women, but this type usually goes away after you have your baby. This condition can cause issues for both you and your baby, so talk to your physician about getting tested. You and your physician and registered dietitian can work out a plan to keep both of you healthy.
Myth 6: Having diabetes is going to ruin my life.
Diabetes symptoms can be controlled by your everyday lifestyle choices. Your diet can include a large variety of foods and you can likely still eat your favorites (you may just need to cut back on portion or frequency). Staying active with diabetes is important too, but you’ll get even more benefits than just lowering blood sugar levels. Getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week will lower blood pressure, burn calories, improve mood and improve sleep.
Myth 7: People with diabetes can't have carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates give our bodies energy and you should not cut them out of your diet completely. People with diabetes should eat a balanced diet with carbohydrates, protein, and fats. A registered dietitian can help you learn more about creating a balanced diet to help manage your diabetes.
It is true that having diabetes changes many aspects of your life, you have a wealth of resources that can help you live your healthiest life. Talk to your physician about any question you have and ask him/her for any recommendations on other resources like registered dietitians, classes and support groups. You can also read through trusted websites for organizations such as the American Diabetes Association, CDC and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Call Dietary Director Charles McNabb at 918-824-6353 with any questions and to find diabetes resources.