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Top Diabetes Myths: Greenwich Hospital marks National Diabetes Awareness Month

Monday, November 30, 2015

National Diabetes Awareness Month serves as a reminder that diabetes is a potentially devastating disease that can lead to serious medical complications, even death, if left untreated.

“There are many misconceptions about diabetes, which affects millions of Americans nationwide,” said Nancy Ryan, RD, a diabetes patient educator at Greenwich Hospital. “Understanding how to prevent and manage the disease can dramatically impact your quality of life.”

Here are five myths about diabetes.

Diabetes isn’t a serious disease
If not properly managed, diabetes can lead to serious medical consequences, including blindness, kidney disease, nerve damage, cardiovascular disease, amputation and possibly death. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

Diabetes skips a generation
Type 2 diabetes has a strong genetic component. If you have a family history of diabetes, you have a greater propensity to develop the disease. Other risk factors include a sedentary lifestyle, weight gain (especially around the middle), ethnicity and age.

Most people know they have diabetes
Diabetes is a silent disorder with symptoms that develop slowly over time. Most people don’t know they have diabetes until they get their blood sugar levels checked. In Connecticut, 9.2 percent of the population – that’s 257,000 people – is diabetic, according to the state Department of Public Health. An estimated 85,000 state residents don’t realize they have the disease.

People who are overweight develop diabetes
Being overweight or obese is just one of the many risk factors associated with diabetes. Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes. Many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or are only moderately overweight.

Never eat “white” food
“White” foods such as potatoes, white rice and pasta – all carbohydrates – can spike blood sugar levels. But so-called “healthier” carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole grain bread, oatmeal and fruit can also impact blood sugar levels. The key to eating a healthy diet is moderation. Be mindful of portion sizes and include a heart healthy fat at every meal – such as avocado, nuts, olive or canola oil, and nut butters – to keep blood sugar levels at an even keel.

There’s nothing you can do to manage diabetes
People with diabetes can take charge of their health to effectively manage the disease and even reverse the disease, in some cases. Health experts recommend adhering to a healthy diet with a balanced combination of protein, carbohydrates and heart healthy fats. Physical activity helps, too. Experts suggest getting 30 minutes of exercise five days a week – it can be as simple as walking around your neighborhood or taking a stroll during your lunch break at work. If you take medication, stick to your drug regimen and test your blood as often as necessary to ensure you’re on track. The bottom line: Good diabetes control can reduce your risks for diabetes complications.

To learn more about diabetes, contact Greenwich Hospital’s Weight Loss and Diabetes Center at 203-863-2939.