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The Diabetes Lowdown

There are many myths about diabetes. Can you separate fact from fiction? Here is the lowdown on diabetes.

Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

FALSE. A calorie is a calorie, and it doesn't really matter where it comes from. But eating too much sugar can promote obesity, a major risk factor for diabetes.

Symptoms of diabetes include frequent colds and low energy caused by blood sugar fluctuations.

FALSE. Diabetes often goes undetected because it has no obvious symptoms. In fact, nearly 6 million Americans have diabetes and don't know it. Sometimes, the first "symptoms" of diabetes are serious complications such as heart disease, blindness or kidney failure.

Type 1 diabetes affects mainly kids, and type 2 diabetes affects mainly adults.

TRUE. But between one-third to one-half of children with new diabetes diagnoses actually have type 2. In type 1, the cells that make insulin have been destroyed. In type 2, the body doesn't use insulin effectively. Insulin is necessary for the body to use blood glucose for energy.

People with diabetes can eat chocolate and sweets.

TRUE. There are no "off-limits" foods to people with diabetes. Calories and total carbohydrate content of a meal are what's important. Where they come from is less important.

Increasingly, diabetes is going undetected.

FALSE. Twenty-four percent of diabetes is undiagnosed, down from 50 percent 10 years ago. Still, if you're over 45 and haven't had a fasting blood glucose test, make an appointment with your doctor today.

A diabetes diagnosis means you have to have insulin injections the rest of your life.

FALSE. Less than half of the people with diabetes in the U.S. now take insulin. In fact, 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, which usually can be managed purely through diet and exercise.

It is natural to want to manage diabetes naturally. If you are monitoring your blood glucose (sugar) levels and seeking ways to improve insulin resistance without medication, here are four ways to do just that.

GET MOVING! Physical activity is essential for managing blood sugar levels. You don't have to engage in highly vigorous activity; walking at a brisk pace is enough. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week. If you take diabetes medication, regular exercise can alter your prescribed dosage, so talk with your doctor.

MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT. Being overweight raises your risk for a number of health problems, including type 2 diabetes. Weight loss, combined with physical activity, can help reduce insulin resistance, which occurs when the body doesn't use insulin properly. Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can make a difference.

RELAX. Stress doesn't cause diabetes, but it can affect blood sugar levels. In learning to cope better with stress, people can reduce their blood sugar to a certain extent.

GO TO BED EARLIER. Some studies suggest that getting enough sleep helps keep weight and blood sugar under control. As part of an overall weight-loss strategy that includes exercise and a healthy diet, strive to get seven to eight hours of quality shut-eye each night.

The above information has been provided by Lifetime of Care. You can contact the diabetes and nutrition department at Northside Hospital for a comprehensive outpatient diabetes education program.

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