Debunking Diabetes Myths

Do you know fact from fiction?

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When you have diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin it makes efficiently. This causes too much sugar, or glucose, to stay in the bloodstream, which can lead to serious health problems. To test readers’ knowledge of this disease, we consulted two Southern Oregon medical experts. Take our quiz and determine if you know the real facts about diabetes.

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are autoimmune conditions.

True or false?

Answer: False. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, says Tina Jones, a registered dietician and certified diabetes instructor at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford. With Type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys insulin-making cells in the pancreas. The body cannot make insulin anymore and a person requires insulin injections to live. When you have Type 2 diabetes, either the body doesn’t make enough insulin, or the insulin doesn’t work properly, she says.

If you are diabetic, it’s because:

  1. You drink too much soda.
  2. You eat too many sugary snacks.
  3. None of the above.

Answer: 3. There’s not a direct correlation between eating a lot of sugar and developing diabetes, explains Jones. Sugar can have an indirect influence because any diet high in calories may lead to weight gain, which increases your overall risk of getting diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes only affects overweight people.

True or false?

Answer: False. While it’s often associated with obesity, a person may have Type 2 diabetes and be a normal weight, or even sometimes underweight, says Kim Waller, a certified physician assistant and certified diabetic educator at Siskiyou Community Health Center in Grants Pass.

Type 2 diabetes is:

  1. A mild condition.
  2. Potentially life threatening if ignored.
  3. No big deal.

Answer: 2. No form of diabetes is ‘mild,’ according to Waller. If not managed, diabetes could lead to several serious medical problems, including heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, blindness and nerve damage.

If you have diabetes, you will always show symptoms.

True or false?

Answer: False. You can have diabetes and not show any symptoms, Waller explains. Especially with Type 2 diabetes, the body is accustomed to functioning at higher blood sugar levels. Over time, the body will adjust to that state of being until it cannot any longer, and symptoms begin, like increased urination, thirst and hunger.

Diabetics are:

  1. People who are overweight.
  2. Children under 12 years old.
  3. People who generally have several risk factors.

Answer: 3. A common myth is that being overweight means you will always develop Type 2 diabetes, says Jones. It’s not a given because there are several risk factors involved, including family history, genetics, ethnic background and age. Being overweight compounds your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, but it’s not the sole determining factor.

If you are diabetic:

  1. You can eat most foods in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
  2. You must avoid specific foods forever.
  3. You must follow a strict diet.

Answer: 1. Jones often encounters diabetics who believe they cannot eat specific foods ever again; however, no foods are truly off limits. The key is the amount and how often you eat certain foods. A dietician will help you incorporate those foods into a healthy diet, she explains.

Diabetics are more prone to getting sick.

True or false?

Answer: False. You are not more likely to catch a cold or get sick if you have diabetes, says Waller. If you do get sick, it can make your blood sugars more challenging to manage and could delay or increase the amount of time it takes your body to heal from an infection.

Diabetes can be ______ with certain lifestyle changes.

  1. Put into remission.
  2. Reversed.
  3. Cured.

Answer: 1. Diabetes cannot be reversed or cured, but it can go into a type of remission with sustained lifestyle changes, explains Jones. If you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and manage your weight and exercise regularly, it’s possible for your blood sugar to return to normal levels. But if you regain the weight or have a sedentary lifestyle, blood sugar levels will increase again, she says.

If you have Type 2 diabetes, you caused it to happen.

True or false?

Answer: False. There is a stigma associated with diabetes that the person caused it, says Jones. Many people are embarrassed because of this misinformation. Even if you are carrying extra weight, she says it is important to remember the impact of other risk factors that are out of your control, such as age, genetics and family history.

Symptoms of diabetes include:

  1. Increased thirst.
  2. Frequent urination.
  3. Fatigue.
  4. Irritability.
  5. All of the above.

Answer: 5. All of those symptoms could be signs of diabetes, according to Jones. You could also have unexplained weight loss, blurry vision or cuts that do not heal quickly.

How many adults have diabetes or are prediabetic?

  1. 10 million
  2. 200,000
  3. 2 million
  4. Over 50 million

Answer: 4. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 88 million (1 in 3) adults have diabetes or are prediabetic, says Waller.

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