You may know someone who has diabetes. In fact, nearly 34 million children and adults in the U.S. have the disease.
But as common as it is, there are plenty of misconceptions about diabetes. Before we break some of those down, let’s look at the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Your genetics can influence whether you have type 1 diabetes, which happens when the body’s immune system kills the cells that make insulin (the hormone that regulates the amount of glucose, or sugar, in your body.)
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, happens when the body can’t use the insulin it makes effectively, or it needs too much.
Though genetics can also play a role in type 2 diabetes, so do lifestyle factors, such as being overweight and eating foods high in sugar and carbohydrates.
Here are the facts about diabetes.
Myth #1: You can’t prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
There’s actually a lot you can do, including eating healthy and exercising regularly. Did you know losing about seven percent of your body weight can lower your risk of diabetes by nearly 60 percent? If you’re at risk, I have a simple actual plan for you to follow – start walking five days a week for 30 minutes and watch what you eat.
Myth #2: You can eat whatever you want if you take insulin.
While insulin will help control your blood sugar levels, it’s not a magic bullet. White breads, pastas, rice – all of these are refined carbs that will require you to take more insulin. They can also cause you to gain weight and make it harder to control your blood sugar. If you are diabetic, limit your carb intake (even healthy carbs such as fruit, yogurt and milk.) Talk to your doctor or nutritionist to learn more.
Myth #3: Saying no to carbs will prevent diabetes.
Remember that genetics can cause diabetes, as well as other lifestyle factors. Still, limiting carbs will help. While many of us love soda, fruit punch and sweet tea, it’s best to avoid these empty calories if you’re at risk of diabetes. A 12-ounce can of soda has 40 grams of carbs. That’s equal to the amount in 10 teaspoons of sugar.
Myth #4: If you use insulin, you failed to manage your blood sugar levels on your own.
When you are first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you may have been able to manage your blood sugar levels with oral medications. But this is a disease that will affect your body more over time. As you get older, your body will make less insulin and the medications may not be enough.
Or, if you start off on insulin because you have high blood sugar, you may be able to be weaned off of it eventually, depending on how your pancreas responds.
Bottom line, insulin is just another tool in your toolbox to help you manage your disease.