November is National Diabetes Awareness month and when you consider that one quarter of the people in the United States who have diabetes don’t even know they have it (1), it’s easy to understand why an awareness month is needed. There are 3 major types of diabetes:
Type 1: A person’s pancreas produces no insulin, the hormone needed to move glucose (blood sugar) from the blood to cells for energy. The only treatment is insulin.
Gestational: This type affects about 2 to 10 percent (2) of pregnant women in the United States. Pregnancy increases the amount of hormones in the body and can make it use insulin less effectively. It has no symptoms and during prenatal care pregnant women undergo a glucose tolerance test to see if they are at risk.
Type 2: This is the most common type of diabetes. Unlike type 1, it can take a long time to develop and is closely linked to lifestyle habits. People with type 2 either don’t make enough insulin or their bodies can’t use insulin properly. Type 2 can usually be managed through diet, exercise and self-monitoring but it is a progressive disease and most people will eventually need to use medication or insulin.
Here are a few type 2 diabetes myth busters. If you think you may be at risk for diabetes take this 60-second risk test from the American Diabetes Association. If you are at risk, see a healthcare professional for a blood glucose test.
Myth: I will know that I have diabetes by my symptoms.
Fact: People with type 2 diabetes may have few or no symptoms. Only a blood test can for sure tell you if you have it.
Myth: Nobody in my family has diabetes, so I won’t get the disease.
Fact: Yes, having a parent or sibling with diabetes does increase your risk of getting diabetes, but many people with diabetes have no close family members with the disease. Lifestyle choices and certain conditions can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Myth: I will likely develop diabetes if I am overweight.
Fact: It is true that excess weight increases your chances of developing diabetes, but it isn’t a guarantee. People who are at normal weight or only a little overweight develop it too. You can reduce your risk by making healthy changes to your diet and adding or increasing daily physical activity. Here’s some tips on how to start.
Myth: I have borderline diabetes, so I don’t need to worry.
Fact: Prediabetes is the term used for those whose blood sugar test is too high to be considered in the normal range but not yet high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Without lifestyle changes, people with prediabetes are very likely to progress to type 2 diabetes. But you can help prevent the disease progression by eating healthy foods, including or increasing physical activity in your day and maintaining a healthy weight. Prediabetes has no signs or symptoms, the only way you can find out if you are prediabetic is with a blood test.
Myth: I was told I have diabetes, now I have to eat a special diet/can’t eat any sweets.
Fact: People with diabetes eat the same foods as everyone else. The American Diabetes Association recommends focusing on the types of carbohydrates you eat. Choosing to eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes instead of refined (processed) or simple carbs is good for everyone, not just people with diabetes. Carbohydrates are the main fuel source for your body and the amount of insulin in your body determines your blood sugar levels after eating carbs. Sweets are full of simple sugars that increase the amount of blood sugar faster than other carbs, but people with diabetes can still eat them. They just need to plan for them.
Written by Adriene Worthington RDN, LDNcarbs, diabetes, type 2