Chances are a friend or family member has it. Or maybe you have it yourself. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 5 million Americans have diabetes and don’t even know it. That’s serious news, since diabetes causes more deaths per year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. But having diabetes doesn’t have to mean living dangerously: The first step to taking control is knowing. That’s the point of American Diabetes Month in November—to raise awareness of the disease and its serious complications. Read on to get the facts.
Myth: Having diabetes means good-bye, pasta.
Fact: Diabetes doesn’t require you to give up that fettuccine Alfredo forever. Ditto for potatoes, bread and other starchy foods. The secret is in watching your portions. For recipes and other nutrition tips, go to diabetes.org/food-and-fitness.
Myth: Only older people get type 2 diabetes.
Fact: False. It’s not your age that counts so much as those hours you spend sitting on your tush. These days more and more people under 40 are being diagnosed with type 2, but staying strong and lean can help you beat that trend.
Myth: Being overweight always leads to diabetes.
Fact: False. That bulging waistline is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, but it’s not the only one—family history, ethnicity and age all play a part, too. In fact, most people who are overweight never develop diabetes, and many people with type 2 are normal weight or only moderately overweight.
Myth: Diabetes means having to follow a strict schedule of meds.
Fact: Not necessarily. “Many treatments can now be tailored to match your work schedule or routine, allowing more flexibility in your day,” says Dr. Richard Bergenstal, president of medicine and science at the American Diabetes Association. “Life isn’t over just because you have diabetes.”
Myth: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
Fact: Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and other factors. Family history can play a part in type 2 diabetes as well, but watching your weight, eating smart and staying active can all help prevent the disease.
Myth: Diabetes isn’t serious.
Fact: This is the biggest misconception people have, according to a recent Harris Interactive/American Diabetes Association survey. In reality, diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., and two-thirds of Americans with diabetes die from heart disease and stroke.