Misconceptions complicate diabetes awareness

Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect the body’s production or use of insulin.

Mo’vember is also Diabetes Awareness Month.

Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect the body’s production or use of insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that allows the cells of the body to absorb sugar from the bloodstream and use it for energy.

If left uncontrolled, diabetes results in consistently high blood sugar levels, or hyperglycemia.

Over time, hyperglycemia damages blood vessels, nerves, and organs such as the kidneys, eyes and heart. The goal of diabetes management is to prevent high blood sugars.

Myth #1: Diabetes only happens to overweight people who don’t exercise.

Diabetes can happen to anybody. And just to make sure no one is excluded, there are many types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.  People with type 1 are dependent on an external source of insulin for life. We do not know what causes type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that usually starts off with insulin resistance (the body does not use the insulin it makes properly) and progresses to an insulin deficiency (the body can no longer make enough insulin). This is the most common type of diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy.

Other diabetes: Although less common, diabetes can also be associated with some genetic defects, diseases (especially related to the pancreas), infections and certain medications (such as corticosteroids) that affect the body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin.

Myth #2: Eating sugar causes diabetes.

Eating sugar does not cause diabetes. However, eating lots of sugary foods can lead you to gain weight, increasing your insulin resistance and risk of becoming diabetic. Unfortunately, even people who avoid sugar can still get diabetes.

Myth #3: Diabetes is always preventable.

Unfortunately, diabetes is not always preventable. What we do know is that in some people, Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented by lifestyle modification. Eating healthy, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy body weight are the best ways to reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes.


– Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.

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