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Type 2 Diabetes: Myth vs. Fact

As of 2017, more than 100 million U.S. adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes. November, also known as “American Diabetes Month,” serves as a time to educate people on how to better manage the risk for this disease and encourage those living with it to manage the disease properly in order to live the happiest, healthiest life possible. Here are five of the most common myths about Type 2 diabetes, debunked:

  • Myth #1: Being Overweight Always Leads to Type 2 Diabetes. Fact: Although being overweight or obese may heighten the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, there are other contributing factors that can lead to the diagnosis. Lack of exercise, poor diet, stress, sleep and mental health are controllable risk factors that may overall impact an individual’s risk for developing the disease. It’s important to note, however, that overweightness is considered the most controllable risk factor to preventing a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. There are also uncontrollable risk factors, such as, age, gender, race/ethnicity and genetics that could also impact one’s potential towards a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
  • Myth #2: A Sugary Diet Always Leads to Type 2 Diabetes. Fact: Type 2 diabetes isn’t solely caused by consuming a diet high in sugar or carbohydrates. In truth, a diet lacking nutrition overall can be dangerous, contribute to weight gain and therefore put an individual at a higher risk of developing the disease. It is important to remember there is a difference between added sugars and naturally occurring sugars in foods, such as fruit, starchy vegetables and dairy. All individuals should focus on sustaining healthy blood sugar levels and consume a balanced diet rich with healthy portions of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and heart healthy fats.
  • Myth #3: Once You’re Diagnosed with Diabetes, You Can Never Consume Sugar or Carbs. Fact: Having diabetes does not mean that one must eliminate all carbohydrates from their diet. It’s about controlling your blood glucose to maintain good health. The key is to know which foods contain carbohydrates and then learn how many carbs you should have at each meal. Carbohydrate counting and consistency without “banking” grams of carbs will always help with blood sugar control. Believe it or not, a “diabetes-friendly diet” is one that all individuals could benefit from by following.
  • Myth #4: Diabetes is Not a Life-Threatening Disease. Fact: As of 2015, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Unmanaged, this disease contributes to many other serious health conditions, including: heart disease, nerve and kidney disease, vision loss and stroke. Diabetes takes more lives every year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Though that may be startling, it’s important to remember that it’s possible to live a long and productive life with diabetes when managed properly.
  • Myth #5: You Can Only Manage Diabetes with Insulin. Fact: Most people associate diabetes with painful injections, but that’s not the only way to control this disease. Another viable treatment is oral medication, which can help lower blood glucose levels. Treatment plans differ for every individual, so it’s critical to keep an open dialogue with the doctor, ask questions and learn all the facts before making important health care decisions. Making healthy lifestyle changes is always beneficial in partnership with prescribed medications for better health and blood sugar control.

About the author: Grace Derocha is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. 

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