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New Ulm Medical Center

Diabetes: separating fact from fiction

About one in seven U.S. adults has diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But by 2050, that rate could skyrocket to as many as one in three. Many of us don’t understand diabetes. To help contain this leading cause of disability and death, it’s important to separate fact from fiction.

FICTION: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

FACT: Many factors — genetics, nutrition, exercise and lifestyle — play a role in the development of diabetes. Eating too much sugar could contribute because of the additional calories and carbohydrates. Go for gradual, achievable changes to your sugar intake, such as cutting back on sweetened beverages.

FICTION: If I have type 2 diabetes risk factors, such as a family history, I’m bound to get it.

FACT: Diabetes does have a strong genetic component. However, it is also strongly affected by lifestyle factors such as weight and eating habits. Education, tools, and sometimes medicine can help prevent or delay a diagnosis of diabetes.

FICTION: I can manage diabetes, so it can’t be serious.

FACT: Diabetes is a serious and lifelong disease. It is a major contributor to problems with the heart, kidneys, blood vessel and eyes. Medicines cannot do everything. Patients can help control diabetes by eating a balanced diet, eating smaller portions and exercising for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week. Doctors and patients must work together to prevent complications. The good news: If you successfully manage diabetes, you may be able to reduce or even stop taking medicine.

FICTION: Fruit is a healthy food, so I can eat as much as I want.

FACT: Fruit does contain many nutrients, but some fruits also have a lot of calories and sugar. Blackberries and raspberries are relatively low in sugar and calories. Fruits in the medium range are oranges, pineapple, watermelon and peaches. High-sugar fruits include bananas, grapes, cherries and mangoes.

FICTION: If I’m developing type 2 diabetes, I’ll know something is wrong.

FACT: Not necessarily. Some people with high blood sugar have warning signs such as low energy level, exhaustion or excessive urination. Many others feel great. The only way to know for sure is to have your blood tested. If you do not have a family history and other risk factors, your doctor will start screening you at age 45. With risk factors, screening starts at age 30.