Covenant Medical Moment Blog: Diabetes Myths and Facts

Diabetes: The Myths and the Facts

More than 29 million people in the U.S. have Type 2 diabetes. While the condition can be managed with medication, proper diet and exercise, if left untreated it can be deadly. That's why it's so important to know the facts—not the myths.

Covenant Registered Dietician Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator Sharon Donnenwerth appeared on WNEM-TV's Medical Moment to answer some important questions about diabetes.

What is diabetes?

"Diabetes is a condition in which your body can't use the sugar that's in your blood, which is called glucose," says Ms. Donnenwerth. "Your body is just not able to use it properly, so your blood sugar stays higher longer than we want it to."

Insulin is the hormone your pancreas makes that helps your body use glucose for energy; if your pancreas doesn't make enough insulin, or the insulin doesn't work properly, this causes glucose to stay in your blood, raising blood sugar levels. Some people who have diabetes must take insulin to help their body use glucose.

What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas makes little or no insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes need daily insulin shots in addition to proper diet and exercise. Type 1 diabetes is much less common than Type 2 (about 1.25 million people in the U.S. have Type 1 diabetes).

In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes some insulin, but it is either not enough, or the cells don't use it properly. Some people can manage Type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise alone; some need medication as well.

The Myths, the Facts

Ms. Donnenwerth helped clear up some of the myths surrounding diabetes:

Myth: If you have diabetes, you can never have chocolate or other sweets.

Fact: "We don't recommend that you eat a lot of them, but you can definitely have some. My recommendation is just to have smaller portions," Ms. Donnenwerth says.

Myth: Only overweight people get diabetes.

Fact: While being overweight is one risk factor for diabetes, there are many others. People with all different body types get diagnosed with diabetes.

Myth: People with diabetes should never eat carbs.

Fact: Carbohydrates are necessary to help the body produce energy. The key is to choose the right kinds of carbohydrates, and the right portion size. Ms. Donnenwerth points out that fruits are a good choice, because they provide vitamins and fiber along with carbohydrates.

Myth: Diabetes is not a serious condition.

Fact: According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes causes more deaths per year than breast cancer and AIDS combined, and having diabetes nearly doubles your chance of having a heart attack. Fortunately, if properly managed, the risks of these complications can be significantly reduced.

Are you at risk?

You are at greater risk for diabetes if you:

  • Have a family history of diabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Are over the age of 45
  • Are inactive
  • Are of African, Asian, Hispanic, Native American or Pacific Islander heritage
  • Have a history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or have delivered a baby weighing over nine pounds

Symptoms of diabetes to watch out for include:

  • Extreme fatigue or weakness
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing of wounds or infections
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands, legs, or feet
  • Vomiting and/or stomach pain
  • Sexual problems (impotence in men, vaginal dryness for women)

If you think you may be at risk for diabetes, contact the Covenant Diabetes Team at or call 989.583.5190. Covenant has programs for diabetes education, prevention and management.

Posted Date: 2/22/2019

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