A woman tests her blood sugar level as part of her management of diabetes. (David Proeber, AP)

Inaccurate information about diseases can lead to myths, misconceptions, and even stereotypes and stigma for many people. While nearly 10 percent of Americans have diabetes, there’s a lot of misinformation about the disease out there. Such misconceptions about diabetes risk factors, symptoms, healthy foods, and more often affects how diabetes patients take care of themselves.

That’s why on October 21, 2017, United Medical Center (UMC) is hosting a diabetes awareness day to help DC residents—especially those in Wards 7 and 8 where death from diabetes is quite high—learn about the warning signs and risk factors associated with diabetes and how to live a healthy life with the disease. In this article, we also shed some light on the truth behind some of the most common myths about diabetes.

Myth #1: Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.
FALSE: Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas completely stops making any insulin, a hormone that helps the body to use glucose (sugar) found in foods for energy. The exact cause or causes of type 1 diabetes isn’t known, but research shows that environmental factors, viruses and genetics often play a role.

Type 2 diabetes, however, results when the body does not produce enough insulin and/or is unable to use insulin properly (also called “insulin resistance”). This form of diabetes usually occurs in people who are over 40 years of age, overweight, and have a family history of diabetes. Today, though, more and more young people are also being diagnosed with diabetes.

Myth #2: People with diabetes can’t eat sugar or sweets.
FALSE: This is one of the most common diabetes myths. People with diabetes should eat a diet that is balanced, which can include some sugar in moderation. With type 2 diabetes, keep sweets a small portion of your overall diet and fill the rest with fiber-packed whole grains, vegetables and lean protein. Type 1 diabetes is a little trickier, because you’ll have to learn how to adjust your next insulin dose to compensate for sugary carbs. Using a continuous glucose monitor to know what your levels are and when they change is key.

Myth #3: Exercise is dangerous for people with diabetes.
FALSE: This myth is very far from the truth. Exercising and being physically active can lead to improved health for most chronic diseases and conditions, especially diabetes. Overtime, regular activity can help lower your blood sugar levels and improve the way your body handles insulin. Just make sure to talk to your doctor or your diabetes care team first about ways to include exercise as part of your daily routine. But rest assure, being physically active with diabetes is absolutely possible and is definitely encouraged.

Myth #4: Type 2 diabetes is not as serious as type 1 diabetes.
FALSE: Left uncontrolled, both types of diabetes can cause serious complications and lead to death. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. It is also a major cause of disability, often leading to other complications, such as kidney disease, heart attacks, strokes, vision loss and amputations.

Myth #5: Type 2 diabetes only affects fat people.
FALSE: While type 2 diabetes is often associated with being overweight and obesity, it is actually untrue that it only affects people who are overweight. Type 2 diabetes can affect anyone, whether they are overweight, normal weight or underweight. However, it is true that losing some weight (if you are overweight) may prevent you from developing diabetes, or help you to better manage your condition if you have already been diagnosed with diabetes.

At UMC, we help people learn how to take control of their diabetes to prevent complications and live the healthy life they desire and deserve. For more information on controlling your diabetes, please visit our Diabetes Education Center or call 202.574.6141. In the meantime, mark your calendar for Saturday, October 21 for our Diabetes Awareness Day event so that you can get the tools you need to live well with diabetes.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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