Diabetes Decoded

When it comes to your health, knowledge is power. So here are some of the most common diabetes myths, and the facts you should know to ensure a lifetime of good health.

 
Myth: People with diabetes are destined to develop complications or even die because of the condition.
Fact: Diabetes is a controllable disease, says John Buse, M.D., Ph.D., an endocrinologist and immediate past president, Medicine & Science, for the American Diabetes Association. “With proper care and follow-up,” he explains, “people with diabetes can expect a normal life span without disabling complications.” Even better, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the first place can be reduced by 60 percent just by losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight and exercising 30 minutes a day.

Myth: If I have type 2 diabetes, I can make it go away by doing exactly what my doctor tells me.

Fact: Many people believe this, but it’s not true, says Angela Ginn-Meadow, R.D., a certified diabetes educator and national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “Diabetes is a lifetime disease,” she says. “But if you manage it every day, you can stay healthy and avoid complications.”

Myth: People with diabetes cannot eat sugar, ever. And eating sugar can cause diabetes.

Fact: These are two of the biggest misunderstandings about diabetes. Eating sugar does not cause the disease, but does contribute to weight gain, which can be a factor in developing type 2 diabetes, Buse says. What’s more, effective diabetes management doesn’t mean avoiding sugar entirely. A piece of pie or a cookie can be an occasional treat for people with diabetes, as long as they balance it with an overall healthy eating plan.

Myth: Having diabetes means you need to follow a low-carbohydrate diet.

Fact: “Carbohydrates are our first source of fuel for energy, and your body needs carbohydrates whether or not you have diabetes,” Ginn-Meadow says. “If you have diabetes, about half of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. The key is choosing healthy carbohydrates, watching portion sizes and eating your carbohydrates at the right times.” It’s not easy for most people to estimate a one-cup portion of something like pasta or mashed potatoes, so Ginn-Meadow offers a tip: Make a fist and put it into a measuring cup to see how closely your fist compares to a one-cup serving. Then you can use your fist as a portable measuring cup.

Myth: Blood sugar level is the only indicator of diabetes control that really matters.

Fact: Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and managing these conditions can help prevent complications. “Even just a couple of years ago, many doctors focused almost exclusively on blood sugar control,” Buse says. “But blood pressure and cholesterol levels are equally important in diabetes care.”

Myth: If I take insulin or oral medication, I don’t need to do anything else to manage my diabetes.

Fact: It’s true that medications today are extremely effective. But this doesn’t mean people with diabetes can ignore proper diet and regular physical activity, Buse says. Ginn-Meadow actually writes prescriptions for exercise. “For some people,” she says, “that exercise can be all the medicine they need.”

Expert guidance, at your fingertips

Get trustworthy tips on meal planning with MyFoodAdvisor from the American Diabetes Association. Explore foods, find recipes, learn about serving sizes and more at tracker.diabetes.org/myfoodadvisor.html. Also, our registered dieticians can customize a plan to help you manage your diabetes, lose weight and be healthy. To learn more, call 678-312-6046 or click here.

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