The prevalence of diabetes in African-American women is 85% higher than white women, with nearly one in four AA women diagnosed. Genetics and poor lifestyle choices like a bad diet and lack of exercise are the main risk factors for diabetes. And yet despite it's prevalence in our communities, a lot of misconceptions (some down right funny) still surround the disease. Here are 10 diabetes myths we need to get real about.
Myth #1: Diabetes is serious and all, but it won't kill you
The real deal: Think again. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes kills more people than breast cancer and AIDS every year.
Myth #2: Eating too many sweets causes diabetes
The real deal: No, eating too much sugar will not cause diabetes. However, if you're rewarding yourself with ho ho cakes every day and not exercising, chances are you'll gain weight, which puts you at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Genetics also play a role. If diabetes runs in your family, eating healthy and exercising regularly is highly recommended.
Myth #3: Diabetics can't have any sweets
The real deal: Don't snatch that piece of pumpkin pie from grandpa just yet. Like the rest of us, people with diabetes are allowed to eat sweets, as long as it's in moderation and combined with exercise.
Myth #4: Most people know when they have diabetes
The real deal: Of the 23 million Americans who have diabetes, according to the ADA, nearly six million do not know they have it. Symptoms of diabetes include extreme fatigue, increased appetite, unexplained weight loss, blurry vision, an increased occurrence of vaginal infections, frequent urination and nausea.
Myth #5: Only older people get diabetes
The real deal: These days more and more children 18 and under are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1.85 million women between the ages of 18 and 44 have diabetes. Of that figure nearly 500,000 are undiagnosed. Black women are 2-4 times more likely to develop diabetes than other groups.
Myth #6: Diabetics should snack all day so their blood sugar doesn't dip
The real deal: It used to be that people were encouraged to eat frequently so that their blood glucose wouldn't dip. But these days, meds help take care of that so you don't have to eat even when you're not hungry.
Myth #7: People with diabetes should take it easy and not exercise
The real deal: Not so fast. Moderate exercise helps to lower blood sugar levels and keep the pounds off. Because exercise makes your body more sensitive to insulin and can make your blood sugar too low (a condition called hypoglycemia) it is best to consult with a doctor about a suitable exercise plan.
Myth #8: Some people have a "little" diabetes
The real deal: Not the case. Either you have diabetes or you don't. Even if you are exercising and eating right, there is no cure for diabetes. Once you have it it's with you for life.
Myth #9: Things are really bad if you have to take insulin
The real deal: Far from it, insulin is a natural hormone that helps keep blood glucose levels healthy to prevent any diabetes complications. If diet and medications are not keeping your blood glucose levels low, then insulin will be given.
Myth #10: People with diabetes should stick to diabetic food
The real deal: Like everyone else, people with diabetes need to eat a low fat diet, including vegetables and whole grains for optimal health. And, says the ADA, "dietetic' foods often contain no special benefit.
There are three types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes (previously known as juvenile diabetes) is when the body doesn't produce insulin, a hormone needed to convert starch and sugar into energy. It is most prevalent among adolescents.
- Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, is when the body does not make enough, or does not properly use insulin. African-Americans are twice as likely to get type 2 diabetes.
- Pregnant women risk developing gestational diabetes, a condition in which your body has difficulty managing glucose levels.
Celebs with diabetes include Halle Berry, Sherri Shepard, Randy Jackson, Patti Labelle, and Vanessa Williams. To learn more about diabetes, visit American Diabetes Association website: www.diabetes.org