Diabetes Mellitus is a disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood. In simple terms, Diabetes Mellitus happens when the body isn’t able to take up sugar (glucose) in its cells and use it for energy. This results in a build-up of extra sugar in the bloodstream.
There are several myths about diabetes and its management. Here are also some facts you should know about diabetes mellitus.
1. Myth: Diabetes Mellitus is Communicable
Fact: Diabetes cannot be caught by someone else. It is categorized as being a non-communicable illness, meaning it cannot be passed on by sneezing, through touch, via blood, or by any other person-to-person means.
2. Myth: Diabetes Mellitus is only hereditary.
Fact: Although family history is a risk factor for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, many people with diabetes have no close family members with diabetes. Lifestyle choices and certain conditions such as dietary habits, physical activity level, adiposity, alcohol use, and smoking habits can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes.
3. Myth: Only overweight individuals will develop Diabetes.
Fact: While it is true that weight can be one factor that increases a person’s risk for developing diabetes, many people who are overweight or obese never develop diabetes, and people who are normal weight or only a little overweight may develop diabetes. Your best bet is to take steps to lower your risk by using nutritional changes and physical activity to lose excess weight.
4. Myth: Eating a lot of sugar will lead to diabetes.
Fact: It’s not surprising that people get confused about whether sugar causes diabetes. This confusion may come from the fact that when you eat food, it is converted into a sugar called glucose. Eating a lot of sugar does not directly cause diabetes, the main problem is that eating a lot of sugar can make you overweight, and being overweight does increase your risk for diabetes.
With diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin, or the body does not use insulin well. As a result, the extra sugar stays in the blood, so the blood glucose (blood sugar) level increases.
5. Myth: Individuals with diabetes must eat a special diet.
Fact: People with diabetes eat the same foods that everyone eats. They are however advised to get their carbohydrates from vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and legumes. Avoid foods that are high in fat, sodium, and sugar. These recommendations are similar to what everyone should be eating.
A healthy and balanced meal plan with a healthy lifestyle will help in the management of diabetes.
6. Myth: Patients on Insulin Have More Serious Diabetes Than Those on Oral Medications
Fact: Patients with type 1 diabetes are not able to produce insulin due to an immune disorder affecting the pancreas. Therefore, oral medications that stimulate the production of insulin by the pancreas are not suitable. Such patients require insulin injections to control their blood glucose level.
For patients with type 2 diabetes, initial treatment may involve only oral medications or insulin injections. Some patients may require a combination of both treatments to achieve optimal control of their blood glucose levels
7. Myth: It is not safe to exercise with diabetes.
Fact: Exercise is important in the management of diabetes. Among other things, exercise helps drive weight loss and reduces blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for complications. Exercise helps boost the body’s sensitivity to insulin. It can also help lower your A1C, a test that helps tell how well diabetes is controlled.
However, exercise can impact blood sugar levels in various ways, sometimes increasing it and, at other times, decreasing it.
Note: Talk to your provider to make sure your exercise program is safe for you. Also, learn how to take your medicines when you exercise or how to adjust the dosage of medicines, such as insulin, to prevent low blood sugar.
8. Myth: I have borderline diabetes, so I don’t need to worry.
Fact: Pre-diabetes is the term used for those whose blood sugar levels are not in the diabetes range but are too high to be called normal. Pre-diabetes means that you are at high risk for developing diabetes within 10 years, hence you may need to lower your blood sugar to normal levels by lowering your body weight and exercising.
9. Myth: I can stop taking diabetes medicines once my blood sugar is under control.
Fact: Some people with type 2 diabetes are able to control their blood sugar without medicine by losing weight, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise. But diabetes is a progressive disease, and over time, even if you are doing all you can to stay healthy, you may need medicine to keep your blood sugar within your target range.
10. Myth: Diabetes always leads to blindness and amputation
Fact: When poorly controlled, diabetes can lead to blood vessel damage in the long run, which in turn leads to complications like foot ulcers and amputation, blindness nerve damage, kidney failure, heart disease, and even stroke. However, such complications are avoidable if diabetes is properly managed. For this reason, it is important for diabetic patients to go for regular screenings of their feet, eyes, and kidneys to monitor for the above-mentioned complications
Written by Damilola Ogunnowo
Diabetes.co.uk (2022)- https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-myths.html
Purdue University (2022)- https://www.purdue.edu/hr/CHL/no-cost_Wellness/diabetes.php
Cleveland Clinic (2022)- https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/7104-diabetes-mellitus-an-overview
Health Hub (2021)- https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/592/facts–myths-of-diabetes
National Library of Medicine (2010) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2828342/
Medline Plus (2022)- https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000964.htm
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (2022)- https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/special-topic/diabetes-myths-and-facts