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It's Diabetes Awareness Month. Can you separate diabetes myth from reality?

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By: Karen Yontz Center Staff

Debunking Diabetes Myths

We hear about diabetes all the time, and the information can be complicated. Because of this, that means there are quite a few myths that surround it. Here, we address five of the most common diabetes myths and get to the truth of the matter instead.

Myth #1: Diabetes comes from eating sugar.

Reality: When we eat, our body converts some of the nutrients to blood sugar (glucose). With diabetes, the body either does not make enough insulin or it doesn’t use the insulin well. Since insulin moves the sugar from a person’s blood into their cells to be used as energy, if a person is diabetic, this sugar stays in the blood instead. But diabetes does not develop simply from eating sugar. However, eating and/or drinking a lot of foods that contain added sugar can cause a person to become overweight which increases their risk for developing diabetes.

Myth #2: People who have diabetes can never eat sugar.

Reality: People with diabetes must make sure they are careful about what they eat—that means everything. In order to control blood sugar, a diabetic needs to control all carbohydrates they eat, since carbohydrates are turned into sugar by the body. Carbohydrates are in everything from baked goods and candy to milk and fruit. Diabetics who are successful at controlling their blood sugar learn how to carefully plan their meals and snacks so that they are keeping carbohydrates in check. If they plan accordingly, they can sometimes accommodate a small treat for a special occasion.

Myth #3: I am only prediabetic so I don’t have to worry.

Reality: If your doctor determines that you are prediabetic, that means your blood sugar levels are higher than normal and you are at high risk for developing heart disease within 10 years. This means you are at risk for hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) which can lead to heart attack or stroke and you’re also at risk for heart failure.

Myth #4: Once I am diagnosed with diabetes, there’s nothing I can do about it.

Reality: While it is true that Type I diabetes is a chronic, irreversible illness, the same is not true of Type II diabetes. People with Type II diabetes can oftentimes help reverse their diabetes diagnosis by losing weight. People who are unable to reverse Type II diabetes can work with their doctor to keep it under control with a combination of proper medications, moderate exercise, and managing their diet.

Myth #5: No one in my family is diabetic, so I won’t be either.

Reality: While family history is a risk factor for developing both Type I and Type II diabetes, it is possible to develop the disease with no family history of it. Factors that increase your risk of developing diabetes include being overweight/obese, being prediabetic, having gestational diabetes with any pregnancy, having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and/or being Hispanic/Latinx, African American, American Indian, or Alaska Native.

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