Some 24 million people in this country have diabetes. Yet myths surrounding the condition abound. Read on for the truth:
Myth: People who have diabetes should eat diabetic foods.
Truth: People with diabetes should eat the same foods that everyone else is supposed to eat: whole grains, fruits and vegetables and not much salt and sugar. Diabetic foods are not only more expensive than their conventional counterparts, they also often contain sugar alcohols, which can have a laxative effect.
Myth: If you have diabetes, you’ll know it.
Truth: Nearly 6 million people have diabetes and don’t know it. That’s because the symptoms can be vague: having to go to the bathroom frequently; being hungrier, thirstier or sleepier than usual; unusual weight loss; irritability; and blurry vision. And some people have no symptoms at all. If your healthcare provider thinks you might have diabetes, he or she will likely give you a fasting blood glucose test. For the test, you’ll have to fast for several hours and your healthcare provider will draw blood to test your glucose levels.
Myth: If a family member has type 2 diabetes, you’ll develop it, too.
Truth: If you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, you are more likely to develop it, but you can take steps to ward off the condition. If you’re carrying around extra pounds, losing weight is the best thing you can do. In one study of people with pre-diabetes or other risk factors, those who lost 5 percent to 7 percent of their body weight (just seven-and-a-half to ten-and-a-half pounds for a 150-pound person) reduced their risk.
Myth: Diabetes always leads to serious health problems, like amputation and stroke.
Truth: Uncontrolled, diabetes can be dangerous. But you can take steps to stay healthy, such as sticking to a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking and seeing your doctor regularly. Pay special attention to your feet and let your healthcare provider know if you have an injury, sore or wound that won’t heal. About 5 percent of people with diabetes lose a foot or toe.