While many associate diabetes with overweight, underactive adults, more and more young, thin, healthy people are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes each year. And since the International Diabetes Federation estimates that 187 million people worldwide have diabetes but don’t know it, take advantage of World Diabetes Day today to learn the truth about five common rumors.
1. You don't have to worry about diabetes until you have it. "Pre-diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, which are precursors of type 2 diabetes, increase your risk of cardiovascular disease—the leading cause of death among diabetics—almost as much as type 2 diabetes does,” says Danine Fruge, M.D., associate medical director at Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa. And if you have high cholesterol, excessive belly fat, high triglyceride levels, low HDL (good) cholesterol, or high blood pressure, you are already on your way to developing metabolic syndrome.
2. Only overweight people have diabetes. "There are far too many women in this country who are thin on the outside and fat on the inside," Dr. Fruge says. "When your muscle-to-fat ratio is off-kilter, it can trigger hormonal dysfunctions that can lead to diabetes." The more fat cells you have, the more noxious chemicals called inflammatory cytokines your body produces, and this chronic inflammation is linked with not only diabetes, but also various cancers and arthritis.
3. A family history of diabetes means you’re doomed. Although you have a greater risk of developing diabetes if there's a family history, it's not a death sentence. "There's much in the way of healthy lifestyle changes that can prevent and control type 2 diabetes," Dr. Fruge says. Following a healthy diet consisting of slow-burning, nutrient dense carbs and soluble fiber and exercising daily can help manage your blood glucose and lower your odds.
4. Most people die from diabetes. Although diabetes can be deadly, most people with diabetes, pre-diabetes, or metabolic syndrome die from other related conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Remember NBC political journalist Tim Russert? He died in 2008 of sudden cardiac arrest, but it was posthumously revealed that he had in fact been previously diagnosed with several risk factors including coronary artery disease and diabetes.
5. Managing your blood sugar will manage your diabetes. Type 2 diabetes isn't just about blood glucose. "The disease is about hormonal abnormalities," Dr. Fruge says. "And hormonal abnormalities can start with something millions of women do every day: skipping breakfast." When you skip meals or don't eat for long periods of time, your body starts saving fat because it thinks you're starving. As it starts pumping out hormones such as ghrelin and cortisol, your body interprets that by telling you to eat...and eat...and eat. Hormones can also alter the way your body burns calories, Dr. Fruge says, which can lead to weight gain, especially around your middle.