Five diabetes myths debunked
Get facts on five common falsehoods about diabetes
September 14, 2020
More than 34 million adults in the U.S. and 463 million adults worldwide are living with diabetes, and while diabetes is a major health concern, it can sometimes be misunderstood. This is especially true for type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90-95% of all diabetes cases in the U.S.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, is a condition characterized by insulin resistance. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps glucose get into the body’s cells to be used for energy. In people with type 2 diabetes, the body isn’t able to properly use insulin, which allows too much glucose to build up in the blood and causes high blood sugar.
Here are five common myths about type 2 diabetes explained
Myth: Type 2 diabetes is not a serious disease
Reality: Diabetes impacts about 13% of all adults in the U.S. If type 2 diabetes is poorly managed, it can lead to serious complications. Diabetes management, including learning about the condition, adopting a healthy lifestyle and working with a health care provider to create a treatment plan, can help decrease the risk of complications, but this doesn’t mean that type 2 diabetes is not to be taken seriously.
Myth: If you have type 2 diabetes, it’s impossible to miss the signs
Reality: In many cases, symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop slowly, often over the course of several years, and can be so mild that it’s easy for them to go unnoticed. Many people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms at all, contributing to the fact that 1 in 5 adults with diabetes in the U.S. and 1 in 2 adults with diabetes worldwide are undiagnosed.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include:
- Excessive thirst and/or hunger
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and/or feet
Myth: All people with type 2 diabetes are overweight
Reality: While research shows that people who are overweight and who are not physically active are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, there are a number of other personal and lifestyle factors that contribute to an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Some risk factors may include:
- Age (45 years or older)
- Weight (overweight or obese)
- Family history
- Ethnicity (African Americans, Hispanic/Latin Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives and some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are at higher risk)
- Sedentary lifestyle
Myth: Type 2 diabetes only affects the pancreas
Reality: Over time, type 2 diabetes can affect other parts of the body. For example, people with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as a person without diabetes. However, there are steps people can take that may help to reduce the risk of the more serious complications of type 2 diabetes. These include keeping blood sugar levels as close as possible to a person’s individualized goal, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol at levels set by a health care professional.
Myth: It is unsafe for people with type 2 diabetes to exercise*
Reality: Physical activity is very important for people with type 2 diabetes, as it can help to control blood sugar levels and lower the risk of diabetes-related complications like heart disease and nerve damage. But getting enough exercise doesn’t mean spending hours at the gym. Adults with type 2 diabetes can start by walking for 10 minutes each day, gradually building up to 30 minutes most days. Simple day-to-day activities like walking to the mailbox, or parking farther from the entrance at the mall can add up.
*Before starting any physical activity, talk to your health care provider about which activities may be most appropriate for you.