You’ve heard the family lore over and over:
- We have “bad blood.” We get diabetes.
- When you get “sugar,” you’ll definitely go blind. And you might lose some toes or limbs, too.
- And once you’re diabetic, you also can’t have any bread, potatoes or other starches. Basically, your good years are over.
None of these things has to be true. But it’s surprising how often you’ll hear them. It’s enough to leave you downright gloomy about the future.
What can you do? Inform yourself, and be ready. Here are some facts that can help you sort out the truth and live your healthiest life.
Myth #1: Diabetes runs in the family, so you’ll get it, too.
Fact: There are definitely genetic links to both Type 1 diabetes (the kind you get in childhood) and Type 2 diabetes (the kind you get in adulthood).
Now, the good news: Your choices can help delay it—or even prevent it (Type 1 is not preventable). For example:
- Lose weight and keep it off: Even losing 5% to 7% of your weight can help. For example, if you weighed 200 pounds, losing 10 to 14 pounds could lower your risk for diabetes.
- Get off your couch: Exercise and move your body five days a week for at least 30 minutes, even if it’s just walking. You can break it up into three 10-minute periods, if necessary. Your body will thank you later.
- Eat healthy: That means smaller portions, less fat, more water.
And don’t forget: Your doctor’s got your back. Talk to her about other steps you can take to lower your risk.
Myth #2: Type 2 diabetes always leads to blindness or amputations.
Fact: Because of advances in medicine, people with diabetes have fewer complications today than they did in the past.
OK, so you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes. You’re doing your best to get it under control. Do you need to lie awake at night, fearing you’ll eventually lose your body parts? No, you don’t.
The best advice: Work with your doctor to keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible. This can prevent blindness, amputations, kidney failure, heart disease, and other complications.
Your doctor will recommend a healthy lifestyle, possibly some medication, and regular checks of your:
- Blood sugar
- Blood pressure
Yes, it’s a certain amount of work. But if better health helps you feel like a million bucks, why not?
Myth #3: With diabetes, no cake. Or anything else that makes life worth living.
Fact: Not true. Usually, people with diabetes can have sweets, as long as they limit their intake.
What does that mean? Your doctor will probably tell you about something called carbohydrate counting (or “carb counting”). It means you’ll keep track of the sugars, starches, and fiber you eat every day.
Your doctor or dietitian will recommend a daily intake of carbs for you. Everyone’s needs are different, but specialists say that carbs should be about 45% to 65% of your daily calories.
Try some smart carb strategies like:
- Eating sweets once in awhile, instead of every day
- Spreading out your carb intake throughout the day, to keep your energy up
- Eating foods rich in fiber, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans
- Balancing your carb intake with exercise and medication (if your doctor prescribes it)
Sit down with your doctor or dietitian to work out the right nutrition plan for you. And have a slice of cake now and then, if your doctor says it’s okay. You deserve a treat, too. Especially if you’re keeping your diabetes under control, like it should be.
Know somebody with diabetes? Share this story with them. It might ease their fears about the future.