There are many reasons why each of us needs to understand diabetes better.
First, it is truly the epidemic of our time, with more than 350 million people known to be affected worldwide, and it is on the rise! Closer to home, there are now more than 29 million adults affected by this disease in the US.
That means we have more people in the USA than the total population of Australia, a country that is approximately the same size as the US!
This means that diabetes is a very common disease, and it is likely to affect us as individuals, or family members, or someone we know. It is indeed rare to find anyone who doesn’t know someone with diabetes!
So we need to be aware of how common it is and that it’s often silent or without any symptoms at all. In fact, while 29 million adults in this country are known to have diabetes, over 7 million of them have not yet been diagnosed.
It is so important to know when you have it because even though there is no cure for it yet, we can now completely control it and largely avoid the serious complications of blindness, amputations, kidney failure, excess strokes and heart attacks that diabetes is so well-known for.
This is really good news about diabetes that we should all understand and appreciate.
There are, however, other issues we need to put aside.
Let’s begin by getting rid of three of the most common misperceptions about diabetes. We’ll cover more of these in future installments on this subject that will be featured on this site.
First, you do not get diabetes by “eating too much sugar”.
Second, diabetes does not “skip a generation” when it runs in your family.
Third, just because it is common in your family does not mean “it’s your fate to have diabetes”.
These are myths that can just get in the way of taking control of this disease and living a long, healthy life. It is strongly genetic in nature, which means that if it runs in your family, you have an increased risk.
However, it is what you do that determines whether risk turns into active disease. Becoming overweight or obese and being inactive are the two strongest predictors of whether your risk will become disease.
So it’s not about eating too much sugar, it’s about eating too much everything!
If you are at risk for diabetes, two important tips to remember: 1. With regards to your diet, you should do less than you’re doing now! and 2. With regards to your exercise habits, you should do more than you’re doing now!
We will start there and we’ll explore additional aspects of the truth about diabetes in future segments.