Nearly 10 percent of Americans live with Type 2 diabetes, with 1.5 million people receiving that diagnosis each year. It’s very likely you know someone with Type 2 diabetes, or that you have it yourself–but what do you know about diabetes?
Unfortunately, diabetes has become something of a punchline. A joke cracked after a Halloween haul or a birthday-cake binge. But the truth is there are a lot of things we don’t know about this disease–like who will get it and why–and there are a lot of myths floating around to help keep everyone confused.
Here are some common untruths about diabetes–and some fact-checking to go with it.
Everyone is vulnerable to diabetes, but especially people who don’t exercise and who neglect their diet. High-sugar and -carb diets are bad for you, regardless of your body size. Mostly, who gets this disease is determined by genetics, age, ethnicity, lifestyle, and family history. So people of all shapes and sizes live with diabetes every day.
While lifestyle factors have been attributed to Type 2 diabetes, no, you cannot give yourself the disease. And, in fact, the assumption that diabetes is self-inflicted has been generally harmful to people living with it.
As mentioned above, there are all kinds of reasons–some unknown–that people develop diabetes. Blaming its carriers for their own condition can exacerbate the problem, leading to stress, shame, and avoidance. That’s not good for anyone.
Diabetes is an endocrine condition that causes blood glucose (or sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. That’s because of something called “insulin resistance,” which means your pancreas can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar where it needs to be.
The widely held misconception about this is that eating sugar–or any carbohydrate–exacerbates the symptoms of diabetes. But actually sugar and carbs can be eaten in small portions, in moderation, as long as exercise and a healthy diet are also a regular part of your lifestyle.
Most treatments for type 2 diabetes are an improved diet, more exercise, and oral medication. Shots are rare. Your blood sugar can spike if you’re stressed out, eating large amounts of sugary or bready stuff, or if you’re not taking your prescribed medication. If you’re monitoring all of those things, you’re likely to avoid needing to give yourself injections.