Understanding Diabetes and Busting Myths

By  | 

By the year 2020, it is expected that one in four people will be diabetic. To stop the rise in numbers, prevention is key, and that is the main objective behind this diabetes awareness month.

In 2010, diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. Someone who knows the dangers of diabetes all too well is Marcy Evans. She was diagnosed with the condition in 1990, but it also runs in her family. Both her brother and sister have died from diabetic complications.

"I'm really scared because my sister just died and I don't want it to happen to me," Evans said. "I have something to look forward to, like my grandkids, I want to see them grow older. I'm 68 and I don't know if I'm going to live that long."

To manage her diabetes, Marcy focuses on two main areas, diet and exercise. Both of these categories experts say can make a big difference.

For diet, divide your plate into quarters. Half of the plate should be dedicated to vegetables and green salad, then a fourth of it should be made up of carbohydrates, and a fourth should be protein.

As for exercise, it doesn't take a fancy gym membership, 150 minutes of exercise a week is recommended, so that can be broken down to a half hour walk after lunch each work day.

Sleeping and diabetes have been shown to have a direct relationship. Diabetes symptoms disturb sleep, while sleep loss contributes to diabetes.

7 to 9 hours of sleep each night is ideal, but 35% of us get less than that amount. When we don't get enough sleep, our body produces more of the hormone which stimulates the appetite, which can cause weight gain, and obesity is one of the leading causes of diabetes.

Another trigger for both lack of sleep and diabetes is stress.

"Diabetes has a lot to do with your blood sugars, so people that have diabetes and are in stressful situations, their blood sugars will rise," said Methodist Center for Diabetes and Nutritional Health Manager Jeanne Rice. "Whether they are eating perfectly healthy, and taking all of their medications, your blood sugars can still rise."

Part of the importance of diabetes awareness month is to put any myths about the disease to rest, so here are six common misconceptions about diabetes:

1. You have to be overweight to develop diabetes.

False- People who are overweight are at a higher risk, but thin individuals can still develop the disease. Risk factors can include being over the age of 45, inactivity, ethnicity, and family history.

2. Diabetes care is not costly.

False- The total cost of diagnosed diabetes in our country for 2012 was 245 billion dollars.

3. Diabetes only affects old people.

False- All age groups can be susceptible. In fact, about 40,000 children under the age of 15 have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and that number is growing by 5% each year.

4. Diabetes is not a killer disease.

False- diabetes kills more than 4 million people every year. Every seven seconds someone dies from diabetes related causes.

5. Diabetes cannot be prevented.

False- Up to 80% of Type 2 diabetes is preventable by changing diet, increasing physical activity, and improving living environment.

6. People with diabetes cannot have sugar.

False- sugar is just another carbohydrate, and can fit into a meal plan with moderation. Sugary foods, however, can often be high in fat and calories.