There are more than 34 million Americans living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Add the rest of the world to the equation and the number approaches 540 million adults, according to the International Diabetes Federation. That’s about one out of every 10 people on earth, and this number is expected to surpass 780 million by the year 2045 – not all that far away!
Over the years, new breakthroughs in technology and treatment, such as insulin pens, continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices, insulin pumps and the introduction of tubeless insulin patches have made it a whole lot easier for those of us living with diabetes to manage our disease. However, even with its prevalence there remains a good deal of mystery and uncertainty surrounding diabetes.
In this post we’ll touch on 7 facts about diabetes that may surprise you and hopefully shed some light on what it means to live with the disease and, if you have diabetes, how you might do so more effectively. So, let’s get to it.
7 Facts About Diabetes That May Surprise You
Diabetes is not caused by consuming too much sugar
It’s true that diabetes occurs when too much glucose (blood sugar) exists in the bloodstream. It’s also true that once someone is diagnosed with diabetes, an abundance of sweets and sugary drinks can spike blood sugar, which is why these foods should be generally avoided.
However, diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar. Diabetes is a direct result of the body’s inability to produce and/or process the hormone insulin, which is necessary for the body’s cells to break down glucose and turn it into energy.
In cases of Type 2 diabetes, the main risk factors for developing the disease are obesity and family history. Now, an unhealthy diet featuring too many sugars and fats can lead to obesity. Therefore, one can make the argument that, indirectly, sugar increases your risk of Type 2 diabetes. However, it’s not the sugars themselves that are causing the disease.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that usually develops in children or teenagers. It is distinguished by the complete inability to produce any insulin at all, which causes blood sugar to rise and requires lifelong insulin treatments. It is not even indirectly caused by sugar consumption.
Overweight people aren’t the only ones who develop diabetes
Yes, obesity is a big risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. However, not everyone carrying excess pounds will develop the disease and science really doesn’t know why some people do and others don’t. What is known is that there are other risk factors associated with Type 2 diabetes, including family history, ethnicity, activity level, and high blood pressure. As for Type 1 diabetes, it has nothing to do with being overweight. Most people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes are children and teens who are as fit as any of their friends.
Millions of diabetics don’t know they’re diabetic.
This isn’t just shocking, it’s also frightening because the longer diabetes is left untreated, the greater the risk for serious health complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, vision loss and stroke.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), of the more than 34 million Americans living with diabetes about 8.5 million remain undiagnosed. What’s more there are about 96 million adult Americans in the prediabetic stage, which means their blood sugar levels are above normal but haven’t reached the diabetic stage yet. These folks are on the path to developing Type 2 diabetes without the slightest clue there’s any problem. The saddest part is, in the prediabetic stage the disease can often be halted with lifestyle and dietary changes. But if you don’t know you’re at risk, you’re probably not going to make any changes.
Diabetes isn’t just a physical condition.
Living with diabetes can be difficult and it certainly presents challenges that those without the disease don’t have to deal with in their daily lives. This is why diabetes often impacts emotions and moods, as much as it does the body.
It can become tedious to prick your finger and test your blood sugar multiple times a day. It can be inconvenient to constantly worry about what to order when dining out with family and friends. It’s no fun to administer insulin by syringe or insulin pen, and wearing an insulin pump and dealing with infusion sets can also feel like it’s just too much sometimes.
The fact is, living with diabetes is a daily responsibility that can seem overwhelming. It’s important to talk with your doctor and seek help if you are feeling frustrated or angry, because emotional stress often leads people to break away from their diabetes treatment plans. To learn more about getting help, explore the options available from the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists.
Sweets are not out of the question.
If you’re living with diabetes, it’s important to watch what you eat. However, this doesn’t mean you have to go without the occasional sweet indulgence. Diabetes is about effectively managing the disease. For most people, it’s okay to enjoy a piece of cake or a scoop of ice cream now and then, as long as you are willing to control those portion sizes and possibly adjust other meals throughout the day to compensate for the added sugar. Of course, it’s always wise to talk with your diabetes physician and care team before making any dietary adjustments.
Diabetes is still a very serious condition.
There have been many advancements in understanding and treating diabetes. Additionally, more and more people are developing the disease year after year. It’s become quite common, and many people seen to be under the impression that diabetes is not dangerous. That’s just plain wrong. Diabetes is certainly a disease you can manage, but it is deadly serious. If left untreated or mismanaged, diabetes can lead to cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, vision loss, nerve damage, stroke and even death. In fact, in 2019 diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
It takes time to become good at living with diabetes
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with diabetes, all the blood sugar tests, insulin injections, dietary restrictions, and lifestyle changes you’re asked to make can be confusing and stressful. This is perfectly normal.
Give it time. Living with diabetes is not something you perfect overnight. Ask your doctor and care team for help when and where you need it. Most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. You can’t expect to go from your old life to your new one without a few hiccups. Be patient and you’ll get there. You’ll get there because controlling your blood sugar and managing your diabetes is how you will enjoy a happy and healthy life.
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