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Diabetes – Myths and Facts

Monday, November 6, 2017

November is National Diabetes Month.  For the next few weeks, we will look at some of the myths surrounding this condition.  This week, we’ll look at general diabetes information. In future weeks, the truth concerning diet, medications, and testing will be explored. Diabetes is on the rise. Every year 1.5 million more Americans are diagnosed with diabetes.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2015, 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4% of the population, had diabetes.  Of those 30 million, approximately 1.25 million American children and adults are type 1 diabetics.  The remainder are type 2 diabetics.  

Myth #1.  You can catch diabetes from someone else.

Reality:  NO! Diabetes is not contagious like a cold or flu.  For some individuals there may be a genetic link but for many, diabetes is lifestyle related.

Myth #2.  If diabetes is not in my family, I don’t have to worry as I won’t get it.

Reality: Many diabetics have no family history of the disease.  There are risk factors for diabetes that we cannot control such as age, ethnic background, gestational (pregnancy) diabetes, and family history. However, many cases of diabetes are due to lifestyle.  Weighing too much and being sedentary are contributing factors. As a society, we move less.  Think about it, when was the last time you got out of your chair to change a TV channel?

Myth #3.  You get diabetes from eating too much sugar.

Reality:  You do not get diabetes just from eating too much sugar.   The reality is many folks overeat nutritious and not-so nutritious foods.  This myth is based on the belief that people overeat sweets when the reality is overly large portions of all foods is to blame.  That being said, as was pointed in myth #2, there are other factors to consider in the diagnosis of diabetes not just the food consumed.

Myth #4.  Someone says they have “borderline diabetes” or a “touch of diabetes.”

Reality:  There is no such diagnosis as having “Borderline” or a “Touch” of diabetes.  The term is “Pre-diabetes”, which is a fasting blood sugar between 100-125mg. According to the CDC, pre-diabetes now affects over 5 million New Yorkers or 36.2% of the population; of this number some New Yorkers could be among the 65% - 70% who will go on to become diabetic.  

Myth #5: Type 1 diabetes is worse than Type 2 diabetes.

Reality: This myth has historic roots.  It goes back to the time before insulin was discovered.  At that time, physicians understood that the person had a problem with the metabolism of food.  The treatment was to take away most of the individual’s food.  As a consequence, the person, usually a child, died.  With the discovery of insulin, this changed.  Many type 1 individuals are able to live long, productive lives.  Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are serious as both types can result in high blood sugars which may lead to serious complications.  

Myth #6:  If I get diabetes, or have pre-diabetes, there is nothing I can do.

Reality:  There is a lot you can do starting with a meeting with your health care provider and following up with a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE).  A Certified Diabetes Educator is an individual with years of diabetes training.  He or she is qualified by passing a certification exam and completing a certain number of required hours.  In addition, the CDE stays up to date with current trends and research.  This person will help you understand the disease process, the treatment your physician has prescribed, how to exercise, what to eat, how to test your blood sugar and more.   CDE’s work in Diabetes Programs recognized by the American Diabetes Association or the American Association of Diabetes Educators.   

Nancy M. Johnsen RN, CDE is a Certified Diabetes Educator, Community Health Education Coordinator, and Coordinator of the Diabetes Education Program at Noyes Health. The program has locations in Geneseo, Dansville, Hornell and some local physician offices.  For more information about diabetes, Nancy can be reached at 585-335-4355.  

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