5 things you need to know about diabetes

What you think you know about diabetes could hurt you, but the truth can set you on a course for better health


For those at high risk for type 2 diabetes or that recently have been diagnosed with the chronic disease, there are likely a lot of questions about preventing or managing the condition to which answers are needed.

Diabetes affects nearly 26 million people in the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association. Worse still, 79 million have pre-diabetes, which puts a huge number of Americans at extremely high risk for diabetes..

With those numbers, which are growing, you no doubt have relatives and friends who have the disease and are eager to share their experiences. However, Uncle George’s story about his diabetes may have little bearing on your own situation.

In fact, one of the misconceptions about type 2 diabetes is that everyone undergoes the same treatment.

That’s about to change.

The American Diabetes Association recommends guidelines for managing the disease that take into account individual differences, including your symptoms, age, weight, gender, race and lifestyle. The association is promoting personalized diabetes education.

“Educate yourself on the disease. It’s so crucial,” says Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the clinical diabetes center, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, N.Y.

As you learn to manage your health, here are other common misunderstandings experts would like to correct.

1. If you’re not obese you’re not at risk for the disease.

Although being seriously overweight increases the likelihood you’ll develop diabetes, you also have to take measure of your waistline, according to Ann S. Williams, registered nurse and research assistant professor, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

The fat that accumulates around your abdomen puts you at greater risk than fat stored in your hips or thighs, according to Williams, a research associate.

2. If you were told you’re at high-risk or if you recently developed diabetes, there’s nothing you can do.

Not so, say the experts.

If you’re diagnosed as being high risk, you can make lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, which will significantly improve your health, according to Dr. Zonszein.

Don’t underestimate the impact of exercise.

“If you’re going to change one thing, change your activity very early in the disease. Adding physical activity can be very effective in managing diabetes,” Williams says.

3. Type 2 diabetes isn’t that serious.

At one time, type 2 diabetes was thought to be the less serious kind, when compared with type 1, according to Williams.

“People would say they have ‘a touch of sugar.’ It’s diabetes. Don’t call it a touch of sugar. All diabetes is serious,” she says.

Downplaying your condition could prevent you from managing the disease, according to Dr. Zonszein.

If you’re told your blood sugar is high, it’s a reminder that something is wrong.

“It’s time to make changes,” says the physician.

4. If you don’t feel bad, you don’t have to treat diabetes.

“If it doesn’t hurt, people don’t feel sick and don’t see a doctor,” Dr. Zonszein says.

That attitude is harmful.

“This is a chronic disease. Patients need to know how to manage it,” says the physician. He explains that the regimen may include medications along with diet and exercise.

5. You’ll never lose enough weight to make a difference.

Dieting isn’t an all or nothing proposition when it comes to managing diabetes.

“It’s hard to lose weight. We stopped saying people should get to an ideal weight. Now it’s [the advice] get to a reasonable weight you can sustain,” Williams says.

You may improve your health by dropping 10 to 15 pounds, according to diabetes care experts.

© CTW Features