Diabetes has now become a common lifestyle disease, reaching near epidemic proportions in India. Many of us have it or we know someone who does – often a close relation or friend. However, despite its prevalence, many people still don’t know all the facts about the disease, its seriousness and how to prevent it. Instead, there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding the illness, and numerous dos and don’ts that we are told to follow without any actual basis. Here are some commonly held myths about diabetes and the actual truth about them.
- If you’re overweight, you will get type 2 diabetes: Though being heavy does increase your risk of developing diabetes, it’s not set in stone that you will get the disease. In fact, many persons of normal weight get type 2 diabetes and many overweight people don’t develop the disease. That said, there is a strong link between visceral (gut) fat and developing diabetes.
- Don’t exercise if you have diabetes: A lack of physical activity is bad for everyone, period. You need exercise in order for your body to function optimally. Diabetics are no different. It is true that diabetics who take insulin need to take extra care to monitor their blood sugar levels, but that is true even without exercise. So take a walk, a hike or whatever activity you are comfortable doing – it will improve your blood sugar levels, your overall health and even your mood.
- Diabetes isn’t a serious illness: It is a very serious illness; it has been named “the silent killer” for good reason. Diabetics have a shorter life expectancy than non-diabetics. Blood sugar imbalances can put a serious strain on the organs and affect overall health. Often a diabetic will not be diagnosed until much after he’s had the disease as symptoms don’t show, don’t seem serious enough to check or are easy to attribute to other causes.
- Having diabetes means dying very soon: Diabetes is a serious illness with several ghastly complications, but it is also a lifestyle illness. Treatment for diabetes starts with a proper diet and exercise, and for some that is enough to contain it. With the help of medications and some precautions, diabetics can live fairly long lives. However, that also depends on how soon the disease is diagnosed after it develops. Consult a doctor about getting tested now and the frequency going forward.
- Eating excess sugar gives you diabetes: Actually, it is eating too many calories that increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Another strong predictor of getting the disease is whether it runs in your family. On the other hand, type 1 diabetes is caused when the immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells.
- Young people don’t get type 2 diabetes: This may have been true decades ago, but these days with child obesity rates growing and sedentary lifestyles, children, teens and young adults are also developing type 2 diabetes.
- If I am put on insulin, my diabetes is serious: Being on insulin is not a sign of severe illness. It just means that your diet and medication are not adequate controlling your blood sugar. People who have Type 1 Diabetes don’t produce any insulin at all and therefore need to take insulin daily.
- Diabetics cannot consume starch or sugar: Diabetics are often advised to remove starchy foods such as bread, rice and potatoes, and sugary foods such as desserts completely from their meals, but in reality it’s all about moderation. If you limit the amount you are eating, you can include these foods in a balanced diet along with exercise.
- Diabetics have poor immunity: A diabetic who has his sugar under control is not more susceptible to illness than a person who doesn’t have diabetes. Diabetics should take more care not to get ill though, because illness makes blood sugar more difficult to control.
It is important to separate fact from fiction in order to help prevent or effectively treat the disease you have and to enjoy life despite the illness.
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