myths and misconceptions

While close to 10 percent of Americans have diabetes, there’s a lot of misinformation about the disease. This is especially the case for type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes.

Here are nine myths about type 2 diabetes — and the facts that debunk them.

1. Diabetes isn’t a serious disease.

Diabetes is a serious, chronic disease. In fact, two out of three people with diabetes will die from cardiovascular-related episodes, such as a heart attack or stroke. However, diabetes can be controlled with proper medications and lifestyle changes.

2. If you’re overweight, you’ll automatically get type 2 diabetes.

Being overweight or obese is a serious risk factor, but there are other factors that put you at an increased risk. Having a family history of diabetes, having high blood pressure, or being sedentary are just some of these other factors.

3. Exercising when you have diabetes only increases your changes of experiencing low blood sugar.

Don’t think that just because you have diabetes you can skip out on your workout! Exercise is crucial to controlling diabetes. If you’re on insulin, or a medication that increases insulin production in the body, you have to balance exercise with your medication and diet. Talk to your doctor about creating an exercise program that’s right for you and your body.

4. Insulin will harm you.

Insulin is a lifesaver, but it’s also difficult to manage for some people. New and improved insulin allows for much tighter blood sugar control with lower risk of low or high blood sugar. Testing your blood sugar levels, however, is the only way to know how your treatment plan is working for you.

5. Having diabetes means your body isn’t producing enough insulin.

People with type 2 diabetes typically have enough insulin when they’re first diagnosed. The insulin just isn’t working properly. This means the insulin doesn’t cause their cells to absorb glucose from food. Eventually the pancreas may stop producing enough insulin, so they will need injections.

Those with prediabetes often produce enough insulin, but the cells of the body are resistant to it. This means the sugar can’t move from the blood into the cells. Over time, the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels in the normal range. This can cause you to progress from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.

6. Diabetes requires giving yourself shots.

While injectable medications require shots, there are many other treatments available. These include insulin pens, blood sugar meters, and oral medications that don’t require injections.

7. I always know when my sugar is high or low, so I don’t need to test it.

You can’t rely on how you’re feeling when it comes to your blood sugar level. You may feel shaky, lightheaded, and dizzy because your blood sugar is low, or you may be coming down with a cold or the flu. You may urinate a lot because your glucose is high or because you have a bladder infection. The longer you have diabetes, the less accurate those feelings become. The only way to know for sure is to check your blood sugar.

8. People with diabetes can’t eat sweets.

There’s no reason people with type 2 diabetes can’t eat sweets, as long as they fit into a normal meal plan. However, try to eat small portions and include them with other foods. This can help slow down digestion. Highly sugared drinks and desserts are digested more quickly and can cause a quick spike in blood sugar level. When eaten in large quantities or by themselves, sweets can wreck havoc on your blood sugar.

9. Being on insulin means you don’t have to make any lifestyle changes.

When you’re first diagnosed, your blood sugar may be controlled adequately by diet, exercise, and oral medications. Eventually, however, your medications may not be as effective as they were, and you’ll likely need insulin injections to help control your blood sugar levels. Managing your diet and exercise with insulin is very important to help keep blood sugar levels in their target range and to help avoid complications.