November is American Diabetes Month. About 30 million adults have diabetes, but only approximately 7 million have been diagnosed with the condition. 1.5 million new adults are diagnosed each year, and 84 million people have prediabetes, which significantly increases the risk of diabetes in the future. There are a lot of myths about diabetes and its treatment, however. Let's take on some of the most common in today's Healthy Habits blog!
Myth: Diabetes is caused by overeating sugar.
Fact: A diet that is high in calories can lead to weight gain. It doesn't matter where the calories come from, however. While eating too many sugary foods may lead to weight gain, eating sugar itself does not trigger diabetes. There have been studies showing an association between type 2 diabetes and sugar-sweetened beverages, such as regular soda, fruit punch, and sweet tea. But remember, an association does not equal cause and effect. Still, if you can reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages entirely, it's good for all aspects of your health.
Myth: Staying at normal BMI means I will never get diabetes.
Fact: Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. Weight is just one piece of the puzzle. Family history, age, ethnicity, and exercise also play a role. While staying at a healthy weight is a good thing, it does not guarantee you will never get diabetes.
Myth: Diabetes isn't that serious. I can just take a pill.
Fact: Diabetes is actually a serious condition that can lead to death. It doubles your chance of having a heart attack. By managing your diabetes with a combination of diet, exercise, and medication (if needed), you can reduce your risk of long-term complications.
Myth: If I get diagnosed with diabetes, I can never eat chocolate again.
Fact: There are no "off limits" foods to those with diabetes, even sweets! You can work treats into a healthy diet for diabetes. The portion might need to be smaller than usual, and you might want to save them for special occasions, but desserts are a part of enjoying meals and can be a part of your life. Ask your registered dietitian (RD) about how to work sweet foods into your diet.
Myth: If I have to start taking insulin, it means I've failed in keeping my diabetes under control.
Fact: This is a big myth, but using insulin to help get your blood sugars in the target range is a good thing. Diabetes progresses over the years. In other words, when someone is first diagnosed, it might be possible to keep blood sugar in a healthy range with diet and exercise. As diabetes progresses, it might be necessary to take oral medications or insulin as the body makes less of its insulin.
Assess your own risk of diabetes by taking this short screening quiz from the American Diabetes Association.