Much like any other well-known chronic condition, diabetes comes with its fair share of media attention. And it’s no wonder. Diabetes is a serious disease, one that’s estimated to affect almost 30 million people in the U.S. alone, according to the American Diabetes Association. For good reason, sifting through all the information out there can be overwhelming, but differentiating truth from misconception is imperative.
Because The Cheat Sheet knows wading through research is tough when you’re short on time, we’ve done it for you. Here are 10 diabetes myths you need to stop believing right now.
1. All overweight people eventually develop Type 2 diabetes
False. While it’s true you’re not doing yourself any favors by maintaining an unhealthy weight, the claim that all overweight people will eventually develop Type 2 diabetes is inaccurate. According to the American Diabetes Association, “Most overweight people never develop Type 2 diabetes, and many people with Type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.” Something to consider if you’re freaking out over a few extra pounds.
2. Only overweight people can have Type 2 diabetes
While Type 2 diabetes is often associated with an overweight and obese population, it can also affect people who are at a healthy weight, and potentially be more deadly, according to Harvard Health Publications. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found Type 2 diabetics who were of normal weight were twice as likely to die of heart disease and other causes than those who were overweight. Keep in mind, every case is different. So, before you decide to put on a few extra pounds, discuss your individual situation with your doctor.
3. It’s impossible to have Type 2 diabetes and not know
The truth is, Type 2 diabetes can be tough to spot, as symptoms are not always all that obvious. Health says it’s not uncommon for folks to walk around for years before realizing something’s not right. Of course, they’ll need to see a doctor for an actual diagnosis, but still, how often do you make an appointment when you don’t notice anything out of the ordinary? Probably not too often. The publications also mentioned that symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, such as increased urination and thirst, fatigue, and blurred vision, tend to develop more slowly than they do in people with Type 1.
4. Type 1 diabetes is caused by a poor diet
Yet again, another false claim. The ADA reports Type 1 diabetes, which is less common, is caused by genetics and unknown factors. It’s also typically diagnosed in children and young adults. Because it only affects 5% of the people who have diabetes, Type 1 can often be misunderstood. A person with Type 1 diabetes is unable to produce insulin, which isn’t a result of lifestyle factors. Those with Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, develop a resistance to insulin.
5. Being overweight is the only risk factor for Type 2 diabetes
Being overweight, having an unhealthy diet, and a lack of physical activity certainly doesn’t help your case in staving off diabetes, but there are other factors that also play a role. According to the Mayo Clinic, family history, increasing age, high blood pressure, ethnicity, impaired glucose tolerance, history of gestational diabetes, and poor nutrition during pregnancy can all make a difference.
As you can see, there’s a bevy of genetic and environmental factors that may contribute to a person’s predisposition to developing Type 2 diabetes. This all means you really should maintain regular visits to your doctor.
6. Once you have prediabetes, you will get diabetes
While prediabetes is, obviously, a precursor to diabetes, it’s not a death sentence. Just because you have prediabetes doesn’t mean you’ll continue in a downward spiral. If detected early enough, treatment can return blood glucose levels to the normal range. The ADA says your risk for Type 2 diabetes can be lowered by 58% if you lose 7% of your body weight and exercise moderately for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
7. It’s not safe for diabetics to exercise
As mentioned, exercise can actually help with diabetes. This myth is based on the notion that exercising inevitably affects your blood sugar, in one way or another. Healthline says, “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.” So don’t be fooled — as long as you monitor your levels, and you and your doctor have established an appropriate diet and exercise plan, staying active is both safe and encouraged.
8. Women with diabetes shouldn’t get pregnant
While there are certain risk factors, becoming pregnant after you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes isn’t overly unsafe. “This stems from a time when diabetes was poorly controlled and understood,” David G. Marrero, Ph.D., president of Health Care & Education at the American Diabetes Association, told Reader’s Digest. Furthermore, he says plenty of women experience healthy pregnancies, so long as they’re properly monitored. However, complications like preterm birth could occur in those who aren’t vigilant about controlling their blood sugar levels.
9. Diabetics are more likely to get colds
The thought that people with diabetes are more likely to catch colds or other illnesses is a fairly common belief. But it’s just not true. In fact, the only truth in it is that if and when a diabetic does become sick, their diabetes may be a bit harder to manage. According to Stop Diabetes, being sick could make a person’s diabetes more difficult to control.
10. Left untreated, only your blood sugar is affected
Thinking Type 2 diabetes complications stop at blood sugar is a dangerous mindset. When someone has Type 2 diabetes, their body isn’t able to produce enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels normal. When this happens, glucose isn’t able to move into the cells like it’s supposed to, so it builds up in the blood. According to the ADA, this buildup can result in your cells being starved for energy, and, over time, may hurt your eyes, kidneys, nerves, or heart.
It’s important to discuss the state of your health with your doctor if you are prediabetic or have any type of diabetes. Lifestyle changes, medication, or insulin injections may be a necessary part of your treatment plan.