5 Top Diabetes Myths, Busted!
© 2018 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
There are many myths surrounding the medical condition diabetes, making it very difficult for people to decipher between the untruths and the facts. Some of the myths create a disturbing and scary picture of diabetes that lead to an overwhelming negative stigma underlined with false information. Below are five of the top myths on diabetes, each followed by the actual research-supported facts.
1. MYTH: Health complications make it too risky for women with diabetes to get pregnant.
TRUTH: If you are a woman with diabetes you can have a safe pregnancy and deliver a baby as healthy as a woman without diabetes. The key to doing this is through monitoring and controlling your blood glucose levels, following a daily exercise routine of 30 minutes of aerobic activity such as walking, swimming and biking and eating a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Maintaining good blood sugar levels during your pregnancy can greatly lower the risk of health complications for you and your baby such as:
Your healthcare plan throughout your pregnancy should include scheduling regular prenatal checkups with your diabetes specialist to establish your target blood sugar range, frequent monitoring of your blood sugar levels and setting up your own self-monitoring at home. You should also sit down and discuss your exercise and dietary plan with your healthcare provider to ensure you are following the best action plan for a healthy pregnancy.
- Reduces the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth and the risk of your baby being born with birth defects, particularly those associated with the brain, spine and heart.
- Reduces the risk of excess growth of your baby. Proper blood sugar levels prevent extra glucose from coming in contact with your placenta, triggering your baby's pancreas to produce extra insulin, resulting in macrosomia, a condition where your baby grows too large. Overly large babies increase the likelihood of a cesarean because of the high potential of injury that can happen during a vaginal birth.
- Reduces overall serious health complications for mom and the baby by helping keep blood pressure levels for the mom in the healthy range and promoting healthy blood sugar levels for the baby.
2. MYTH: If you eat a lot of sugar you will get type 2 diabetes.
TRUTH: Eating too many sweets doesn’t necessarily bring on type 2 diabetes, although the condition is often related to lifestyle factors. You will not get diabetes because you indulge in a sweet dessert here and there ... but if your diet favors an abundance of sweets and not a whole lot else, you could be at risk.
In fact, the number one lifestyle factor that increases your risk for developing type 2 diabetes is high calorie intake, which leads to being overweight. In this sense, eating a lot of high-calorie sweets could certainly contribute to type 2 diabetes, especially in the absence of healthy foods.
When you eat, your pancreas secretes insulin that is sent into your bloodstream. It is there that the insulin prompts your muscles and liver to take in the sugar, causing one of the following three things to happen to the sugar:
Eating lots of sugar and an abundance of carbohydrates can be a lethal mix as not only will it cause excess weight gain but the constant release of insulin it causes can result in your body becoming insulin-resistant, ultimately triggering high blood sugar levels. For someone already diagnosed with diabetes, going overboard on sugar or consuming a high-calorie diet predisposes them to serious health risks, such as organ damage, from elevated blood sugar levels.
- It is turned into energy
- It is stored by your body as a starch called glycogen in the muscles and liver
- It is stored as body fat
3. MYTH: My doctor told me I have prediabetes so I don’t have to be overly concerned about my glucose levels right now.
TRUTH: Think again, as statistics show that if you have prediabetes you are in a higher risk bracket of developing type 2 diabetes. Other health risks associated with prediabetes include high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.
More than 41 million Americans have prediabetes, sometimes referred to as impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or impaired glucose intolerance (IGT). Whether your diagnosis is prediabetes, IFG or IGT it means that you have higher blood glucose levels than the normal range, but not quite in the diabetic range. In most situations, with prediabetes you may not experience any symptoms or you may live with the condition for several years without noticing any health changes.
The good news is that people with prediabetes can stop the development of full-blown diabetes by practicing some simple lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. As a matter of fact studies have shown that:
The bottom line is that prediabetes is a serious metabolic condition that shouldn't be overlooked or taken lightly, but by making some simple, positive lifestyle changes you can dramatically lower your risk of subsequent type 2 diabetes.
- People with prediabetes who lose a few pounds, more specifically five to seven percent of their body weight, by eating a healthy diet and exercising daily lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.
- The combination of weight loss and higher levels of physical activity in those with prediabetes not only could help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes, but it can also work to bring blood glucose levels back into the normal range.
4. MYTH: The diagnosis of diabetes is a sentence to a life of complications like nerve damage and kidney disease and having to give up all of my favorite foods.
TRUTH: Being diagnosed with diabetes isn't an instant life sentence of food deprivation and health complications. Many successful and healthy people living with diabetes, such as actress Halle Berry, musician B.B. King, Wimbledon tennis winner Billie Jean King and best-selling author Anne Rice, are proof of this.
The quality of life you’ll have living with diabetes all goes back to how well you keep your blood sugar levels in check. One study on people with type 2 diabetes showed that by controlling blood sugar levels they significantly reduced the risk of eye, kidney and in some cases nerve problems.
The quickest route to keeping your blood sugar under control is with daily exercise and nutritious eating -- and you have the freedom to pick the foods you want to eat. Naturally, portion size also plays a key factor in your success. By working with a registered dietician you can personalize your own meal plan that acts as a daily guide to what you can eat for your meals and snacks along with helping you keep to healthy portion sizes.<
5. MYTH: The only way to keep blood sugar levels under control with type 2 diabetes is through medication.
TRUTH: While it may be necessary in some situations to take oral medication or insulin shots to treat type 2 diabetes, it's important to remember that both exercise and following a healthy diet are two very powerful ways to improve and manage your blood sugar levels. As an added bonus, a good diet and exercise will also keep your weight under control and reduce your risk of heart disease and nerve damage.
Daily exercise works alongside blood sugar levels keeping them at a healthy level by:
When starting any kind of exercise plan it’s important to discuss it with your doctor to assess which exercises would be most beneficial and safe for you, and to determine the best plan for you and your medical condition.
- Improving the way your body processes insulin through the burning of excess body fat
- Providing muscle and bone density strengthening
- Helping the heart by lowering blood pressure and "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, increasing the "HDL" good cholesterol levels and improving blood circulation
- Boosting energy levels
- Giving the body stress and anxiety relief and freeing the body of tension by putting it into a relaxed state
Below are six practical tips to keep in mind when exercising:
- Start off gently and don't push yourself. As you get stronger and build up your endurance you can add to your exercise routine.
- Think about what physical activities you enjoy and make them a part of your exercise program. Chances are you'll be more likely to stick to an exercise plan if it involves activities you enjoy. Whatever you decide to do make the commitment to yourself that this is a lifelong lifestyle change.
- If you're trying to think of some exercise ideas, some to consider are a water exercise class at your local YMCA, walking, riding a stationary bike, getting out on your bike in your neighborhood or doing some strength training.
- Make it a goal to exercise every day for at least 20 to 40 minutes at a time. To get you started it is a good idea to do a 5-10 minute warm-up followed by your aerobic or strength-training exercise and then wrapping things up with a 5-minute cool down.
- Always be sure to wear supportive and comfortable shoes and drink water throughout your exercise session to keep your body well-hydrated and to prevent dehydration.
- If you find that while exercising you start to feel pain, don't think that you should just work through it. Your body is trying to tell you something and if you continue you may cause unnecessary damage to your joints.
An equal player to exercise when it comes to controlling blood sugar levels -- thus taking control of your diabetes -- is a commitment to healthy eating. This doesn’t mean giving up all of your favorite foods, instead it means learning some new eating habits, placing a strong emphasis on incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables and healthy protein sources.
The three eating habits to adopt are quite simple. They include:
Just like with your exercise plan it's best to discuss your eating plan with your doctor and then follow-up with a registered dietician who can help you create a personalized healthy diet plan that targets your lifestyle and taste buds and offers you valuable information on how to successfully implement your new eating habits.
- Practice eating all of your meals in moderation and be aware of your portion sizes
- Establish regular meal and snack times and stick to these to keep your blood sugar levels at a constant level
- Load up on fruits, vegetables and healthy protein sources and avoid refined carbohydrates, unhealthy fats such as trans fats and sugary treats and drinks
When it comes to your diet, keep in mind that quality rules over quantity. To give you a good start on the foods you should include in your diet, below are some recommended foods for quick reference.
Before adding any kind of supplement to your diet always consult with your healthcare provider first.
- Healthy carbohydrates - These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes such as peas and lentils and low-fat dairy products
- Foods high in fiber - These include vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes such as beans, peas and lentils, whole-wheat flour and wheat bran
- Fish to promote a healthy heart - Try to include wild-caught fish like cod and salmon twice a week. Eating wild salmon will also give you additional heart-healthy benefits because of its rich amount of omega-3 fatty acids that work to lower the unhealthy blood fats called triglycerides.
- Know your good fats - Healthy fats are found in foods like low-mercury fish, nuts, avocados, olives and olive oil.
- Consider taking a supplement - In addition to your diet and exercise plan you can include a supplement that works to keep your blood sugar levels under control.
Mayo Clinic Pregnancy and Diabetes: Why lifestyle counts
American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Myths
The Diet Channel: Diabetes Causes: Does Sugar Cause Diabetes?
WebMD: Type 2 Diabetes and Exercise
Mayo Clinic: Diabetes Diet: Create Your Healthy-Eating Plan
HelpGuide.org Diabetes Diet and Food Tips
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, Diabetes Prevention Program