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American Diabetes Association: The Truth behind the Disease

About 30 million Americans, approximately a quarter of the country’s population, are affected by diabetes, making it the seventh leading cause of death nationally.

However, being diagnosed with diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t live a long, productive life by managing the disease through diet and exercise. There are plenty of mistruths out there about diabetes, and the American Diabetes Association wants to set the record straight.

Myth: Everyone who is fat or obese will become diabetic.
Truth: A person’s weight plays a factor in getting diabetes, but obesity doesn’t guarantee your body will stop producing insulin or become insulin resistant. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that is commonly diagnosed early in life as the result of the body failing to produce insulin to deliver blood sugar from meals to the body’s cells. Type 2 diabetes is more common and occurs when cells fail to accept the insulin the body produces, which prevents the body from receiving the necessary blood sugar to create energy. A person’s risk of becoming diabetic includes a number of factors, including race, genetics, environment, autoantibodies in the bloodstream, and diet.

Myth: Only old people get diabetes.
Truth: Although older people are more likely to become diabetic, there is a rising number of younger people being diagnosed with the disease. In 2012, there were 371,000 newly diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults ages 20-44 and 892,000 new cases in adults ages 45-64, according to Healthline. That's compared to 400,000 new cases in those 65 and older. The American Diabetes Association reports that about 25 percent of the country’s 12 million seniors have diabetes, but many of them have yet to be diagnosed.

Myth: Diabetics can’t have sugary sweets.
Truth: Although diabetics shouldn’t binge on sugar or carbohydrates, a diabetic can occasionally satisfy a craving with a sugary dessert, as long as his or her blood sugar is monitored and a healthy diet is followed.

Myth: The key to managing diabetes is diet, diet, and diet
Truth: What you eat is just one aspect of managing diabetes. Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, numerous factors are taken into consideration to prevent the disease from damaging your organs. A diabetic should monitor carbohydrate intake, get plenty of exercise, and check his or her blood sugar regularly. For those with Type 1 diabetes, monitoring and regulating insulin is imperative. For those with Type 2 diabetes, exercising is key since it causes a drop in blood sugar for the next 24-48 hours and causes the body to increase insulin use and lower blood pressure.