Diabetes Awareness Month: Diabetes myths debunked! Understanding a common yet complex condition

Diabetes is a prevalent medical condition characterised by elevated blood sugar levels. It occurs when the body either can’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t effectively use the insulin it produces. There are two primary types: Type 1, an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing cells, and Type 2, often linked to lifestyle factors like obesity and genetics. Unmanaged diabetes can lead to serious health complications, including heart disease, kidney problems, nerve damage, vision impairment, and more. Proper management through medication, lifestyle changes, and regular monitoring is crucial for those living with diabetes to lead healthy lives.

While diabetes is a well-documented and extensively researched condition, several myths and misconceptions persist, leading to confusion and misinformation. To clarify these misconceptions and provide accurate information about diabetes, we have listed 9 myths below to separate fact from fiction.

Myth 1: Diabetes is caused by consuming too much sugar.

Fact: While excessive sugar consumption can contribute to type 2 diabetes, it is not the sole cause. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes, the more common form, is influenced by multiple factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and obesity. It is essential to manage sugar intake, but it is not the only factor in diabetes development.

Myth 2: Only overweight individuals get diabetes.

Fact: Although being overweight is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes, individuals at a healthy weight can also develop the condition. Genetics, family history, and other factors play a crucial role in diabetes risk. Thin people can also have type 2 diabetes, highlighting the importance of a balanced diet and physical activity for everyone.

Myth 3: You can’t prevent or reverse diabetes.

Fact: While you can’t always prevent type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes can often be prevented or managed effectively. Lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and weight management can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Some people with type 2 diabetes can even achieve remission through lifestyle changes.

Myth 4: People with diabetes can’t eat carbohydrates.

Fact: Carbohydrates can be a part of a healthy diet for people with diabetes. The key is to choose complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables over simple sugars. Monitoring carbohydrate intake and understanding how different foods affect blood sugar levels is crucial. A registered dietitian can help create a suitable meal plan.

Myth 5: Diabetes is not a severe disease.

Fact: Diabetes is a serious medical condition that, when uncontrolled, can lead to various complications. These include heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, vision problems, and more. With proper management, individuals with diabetes can live long and healthy lives, but it requires consistent effort and care.

Myth 6: Insulin is a last resort for managing diabetes.

Fact: Insulin is a crucial and effective treatment for both type 1 and some cases of type 2 diabetes. The decision to start insulin therapy is based on a person’s individual needs and the effectiveness of other treatments.

Myth 7: Diabetes only affects older adults.

Fact: While type 2 diabetes is more common in adults, it can affect people of all ages, including children and adolescents. Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age. Increasingly, lifestyle factors are causing a rise in diabetes among younger age groups.

Myth 8: If your blood sugar is normal, you don’t have diabetes.

Fact: Diabetes often goes undiagnosed because it can be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms initially. Regular check-ups and blood tests are essential for early detection. A normal fasting blood sugar does not rule out diabetes, as other tests, such as the A1c test, may reveal the condition.

Myth 9: People with diabetes should only see an endocrinologist.

Fact: While endocrinologists are specialists in diabetes care, primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and registered dietitians can provide excellent diabetes management. Regular check-ups, medication adjustments, and dietary advice can be managed by a range of healthcare providers.

Dispelling these myths and understanding the facts about diabetes is vital for effective management and prevention. Knowledge empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their health and to support friends and family dealing with diabetes. If you have concerns or questions about diabetes, consult a healthcare professional for guidance and tailored advice.