More than 19 million North Americans have diabetes mellitus, a serious metabolic disease that affects the body’s ability to derive energy from blood sugar, or glucose. It results when the body cannot produce or properly use insulin, a hormone needed for glucose metabolism. Because all human body tissues need a steady supply of glucose, diabetes can affect every organ. In particular, it can lead to heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and nerve problems.
Below you will find some general information about diabetes. If you have specific questions related to your plan of care, please contact your care provider.
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From its causes to how it can be best managed, there are lots of myths around diabetes. Here are some of the most common:
- People with diabetes cannot have sugar: Contrary to popular belief, having diabetes doesn’t mean having to have a sugar-free diet. People with diabetes should follow a healthy balanced diet low in fat, salt and sugar, but they should still be able to enjoy a wide variety of foods, including some with sugar.
- Eating lots of sugar increases risk of diabetes: Actually, having lots of sugar has no direct effect on your risk of diabetes. Having lots of sugar can, though, lead to weight gain and this in turn increases risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- People with diabetes should eat ‘diabetic’ foods: ‘Diabetic’ labeling tends to be used on sweets, chocolate, biscuits and similar foods that are generally high-calorie and often have lots of saturated fats. If people want to treat themselves occasionally then they should go for the real thing.
- Type 2 diabetes is a mild form of diabetes: This is wrong. There is no such thing as mild diabetes. All diabetes is serious and if not properly controlled it can lead to serious complications such as amputation, kidney failure, blindness and stroke.
- People with diabetes can’t play sports: People with diabetes are encouraged to exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle and keeping active can help reduce the risk of complications such as heart disease. Steve Redgrave, Olympic gold medal-winning rower, is an example of someone who has achieved great sporting achievements while living with diabetes.
- It’s not safe to drive if you have diabetes: If people with diabetes are responsible and have good control of their blood glucose levels, they are no less safe on the roads than anyone else. Nevertheless, the myth persists that people with diabetes are unsafe to drive.