Common myths prevent diabetics from taking appropriate care of themselves

Both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes can be difficult enough to deal with, even when an individual has a firm grasp of what their condition entails. Unfortunately, there are a number of misconceptions circulating about the two diseases that may make it even more challenging for a person to effectively manage their condition.

Anath Shalev, the director of the University of Alabama, Birmingham Diabetes Center, said that having access to accurate information about diabetes is the key to effectively treating it. When people have inaccurate assumptions, they may be more likely to opt for potentially destructive lifestyles or treatments.

Shalev said that the most destructive myth associated with type 2 diabetes is that there is little a person at risk for developing the condition can do to minimize their chances. Many people see a family history of the condition and an extended waistline and feel that they are doomed become diabetic.

However, she said this is simply not the case. Through an improved diet, exercise and weight loss, anyone can reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes, regardless of their preexisting risk factors.

"There are people who have a constellation of genes that put them at a higher risk," Shalev said. "But that doesn’t mean they will develop diabetes."

When it comes to type 1 diabetes, one of the biggest myths is that young people with the condition cannot eat anything that is too sugary. This is a widespread belief that prevents diabetic children from participating in activities like birthday parties or trick-or-treating.

Yet, there is no real reason why a person with type 1 diabetes should not eat sweets as long as they are cognizant of the calories they are eating and do not overindulge.

Shalev said that this misconception comes from the old days of treating type 1 diabetes, when medications and testing procedures were less effective. However, now a diabetic can take fast-acting insulin or receive an immediate blood sugar reading thanks to continuous glucose monitors that help them handle situations involving sweets.

When it comes to type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, knowledge is power. Dispelling these types of myths and fully understanding what the condition is all about may enable diabetics to live healthier, more fulfilling lives.