Diabetes Myths Debunked

5/22/19
WRITTEN BY: Mila Ferrer/ Mariana Gómez
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Diabetes education helps us acquire knowledge and skills for the daily management of our life condition. Common topics in diabetes education include nutrition, exercise, self-monitoring, and medication — all in an effort to provide the best information to help us make the best decisions about our management. But with all of the legitimate information in the world, there are still some prevalent myths about Type 2 diabetes — let us clear the air. Here are some common diabetes myths: 

Diabetes isn’t that serious

Yeah, diabetes is that serious. In 2016, 1.6 million deaths worldwide were directly caused by diabetes and diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death that year — almost half of all deaths were attributable to high blood sugar in people younger than the age of 70. According to the International Diabetes Federation, 4 million deaths in 2017 were caused by diabetes.

So, diabetes may not be that serious because it’s a relatively a silent disease —  1 in 2 people with diabetes are undiagnosed— and it can be hard to notice the symptoms until you’re having a complication. But make no mistake, diabetes should be taken very seriously because other than death, it contributes to other health issues such as blindness, heart disease, stroke, heart attacks, kidney failure, and amputation of lower limbs.

You get Type 2 diabetes after you have been scared

This information is totally incorrect. Often diabetes diagnosis happens after you have been scared and have had bad news. When we go through stress, our body releases a series of hormones that today we know are counterregulatory. The main effect that these hormones cause is to prepare the body to be “ready and alert”. These hormones cause the body, in a natural way, to “counter-regulate” (as the name itself indicates) the action of insulin. So then, blood glucose levels will rise. Now, imagine that you have been living with Type 2 diabetes but you have not yet received a diagnosis, this type of scare will cause blood glucose levels (already high) to rise even more and it will probably make you feel very sick. That is when you get a diagnosis. For all of the above it would seem that the scare was what triggered diabetes but surely, it was already there for some time.

Being Overweight Causes Diabetes; Thin people don’t have diabetes

While excess is a risk factor of diabetes, many people who are overweight do not develop it and there are many who are “normal” weight who do. Diabetes is the result of many risk factors, including age, metabolic health, physical activity, and genetics.

I can never eat sweets or my favorite foods ever again + have to follow a strict, bland diet

Not true. Being diagnosed with diabetes usually means you’ll have to make some adjustments to your diet, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up everything, or anything, of the things you enjoy. First — different types of sugar affect your blood sugar differently, two — instead of giving up certain foods, try adjusting your portion sizes, three — you don’t need to eat a bland diet; there are plenty of ways to eat a healthy diet that’s full of flavor.

Diabetes doesn’t run in my family, so I’m good to go

Yes, genetics matter in the risks of developing Type 2 diabetes but just because it’s not prevalent in your family doesn’t mean you’re not at risk. A host of risk factors can increase your chances of developing diabetes. Make a point to have your blood sugar tested each time you visit the doctor’s office and ask your doctor to talk about your susceptibility to developing Type 2 diabetes.

It’s okay to stop taking my medication once my blood sugar is under control

Unless your doctor gives you the green that you don’t need medication to manage your diabetes, then you shouldn’t forego it on your own. The dosages your doctor prescribes are designed to keep your blood sugar in check and are based on a series of lab tests. If you truly think you can manage diabetes without medication, talk to your doctor about adjusting your treatment plan.

Type 2 diabetes is a death sentence

Another one of the great myths. “I have to die of something” I once heard a neighbor say. And the lack of information sometimes makes us easy prey for myths. No type of diabetes should be considered a death sentence. Today we have so much information and so many tools at hand that it is easier for us to take care of ourselves and to manage our blood glucose levels. The truth is, we need diabetes education and encouragement to learn and to make good decisions.

Going on insulin means you “failed” at diabetes management

To date, many health professionals prefer to leave insulin for times when oral drugs have stopped working properly or may prescribe insulin depending on the severity and progression of diabetes at the time of diagnosis. However, studies and guidelines from organizations such as the American Diabetes Association and the International Diabetes Federation make us think of “early insulinization” to prevent diabetes from progressing. With the use of insulin, it is much easier to manage it properly in order to avoid or delay the dreaded complications. 

Type 2 diabetes can be cured

At this time, there is no known cure for diabetes — Type 2, Type 1, or any other form of diabetes. Right now, diabetes is treated with the use of oral medication and/or insulin, as well as exercise, and other lifestyle modifications. However, there are discussions about Type 2 remission — reducing your A1c to normal levels — achieved with exercise, sometimes surgical procedures, medication, and the elimination of certain food groups and the improvement of insulin sensitivity and beta-cell function. 

Though there isn’t a cure, you can still live a high quality of life with diabetes. Be aware of those who promote false information, scams, and sell cures for diabetes, especially with the use of non-FDA-approved medication or alternative drugs. 

Insulin causes blindness 

This is also a myth that we hear quite frequently. Many people after their diagnosis are not able to manage their blood glucose levels (for whatever reason). This lack of management and supervising can lead to some complications, including blindness. The most serious mistake is waiting for complications to get started with a complete treatment (as it should have been done from the beginning). It is perhaps in all cases a very serious coincidence. Blindness in those living with diabetes is a complication resulting from elevated blood glucose levels. Insulin is used to control and decrease these levels of glucose in their body. We can summarize it by clarifying that it is the lack of insulin that causes hyperglycemia and this is what causes several complications, including blindness.

Eating too much sugar causes Type 2 diabetes

This is a myth. Eating a lot of sugar doesn’t directly cause Type 2 diabetes. By eating more than we should we tend to gain weight and that along with a sedentary lifestyle and genetic risk factors may cause Type 2 diabetes.

Remember that the multidisciplinary team of health professionals to take care of your diabetes should talk about these myths and clarify any questions you may have. Do not forget to check the information we have in the different sections of Beyond Type 2 to continue learning about diabetes.

 

 

 


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Mila Ferrer/ Mariana Gómez

Mila Ferrer started her Type 1 diabetes blog in July 2011, 5 years after the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes by her youngest son Jaime, at the age of three. She is one of the most read bloggers in the United States, Mexico, Latin America and Spain and well known among parents of children living with Type 1 diabetes in the Latino community through their blog. Recognized as "Leader of Diabetes" by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), and as one of the main influential Latina Blogger by LATISM. During her free time she enjoys watching her children play baseball, spend time with her husband. She is a coffee lover. Mariana was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in the summer of 1985. She is a psychologist and Diabetes Educator. In 2008, Mariana started a blog where she shares her life experience with others. She is a spokesperson for Type 1 diabetes in Latin America. Mariana worked with the Mexican Diabetes Federation until 2012 and today she is a Project Manager in Beyond Type 1. She is the mother of a 12-year-old adolescent. She lives in Mexico City and loves unicorns.