Can you spot the myths about diabetes?

HEALTH

Maria Trimarchi

7 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

About 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. is living with diabetes, and by 2050 it's estimated that number could climb as high as 1 in 3. How much do you know about its causes, symptoms and complications? Let's put the rumors to rest.

What cures diabetes?

Insulin and oral medication, as well as diet and exercise, all help manage your diabetes, but there is no cure for the underlying cause.

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Does having diabetes mean you can't play sports?

No! Exercise is good for you, and may help type 2 diabetics become more sensitive to the action of insulin. Olympic swimmer Gary Hall Jr. has 10 medals, and lives with type 1 diabetes. Your blood sugar levels don't need to stop you from getting in the game -- just watch them closely, and adjust your insulin (or have an extra snack on hand) when it's needed to stay in the safe zone.

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Is it true that diabetes is contagious, like a cold or the flu?

Although there may be genetic components to some types of diabetes, you can't catch diabetes from someone else.

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Which type of beverage increases your chances of developing diabetes?

Evidence shows drinking just one sugar-sweetened drink every day raises your odds of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 18 percent.

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What's the best way to eat carbs when you're watching your blood sugar level?

Carbs are okay, believe it or not, as long as you eat them in smart portions.

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About how old are you when you grow out of type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed when your own body destroys part of your pancreas. There's no cure for type 1, and unfortunately, you also won't grow out of it.

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Which type of diabetes can often be controlled with lifestyle changes, including exercise and diet modifications?

Type 2 diabetes can usually be prevented or controlled through diet and exercise. People living with type 1 diabetes, however, will always need to supplement insulin.

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Eating which type of foods reduce high blood sugar levels?

High sugar levels can't be reduced by eating bitter foods, or salty or sour, either.

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Is type 1 diabetes caused by a childhood vaccination?

There is no evidence that any type of diabetes is in any way linked to childhood (or adult) vaccinations. There are, however, research and clinical trials happening to find a vaccination that can reverse type 1.

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Is it true all people with diabetes have to take insulin?

No, it's not true that every person living with diabetes needs to take insulin. Those with type 1 are an exception, because their pancreases don't make insulin.

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Is it true you can't eat sweets when you have diabetes?

One of the biggest myths about diabetes is that those living with it can't eat chocolate, desserts or sweets. But, it's a myth. As long as you follow good portion control and plan ahead, sweets don't have to be off-limits

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If a person with type 2 diabetes goes on insulin, is it for life?

If you've been living with diabetes for a long time, it may be for life. But sometimes insulin can give the body a chance to normalize, before stopping insulin for oral medications. With a smart diet, exercise and oral medications, most people living with type 2 diabetes can avoid or significantly delay insulin.

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Which special diabetic food is prescribed to people with insulin resistance?

There is no special diabetic food or meal plan. Everyone, including people living with diabetes, should eat a healthy diet full of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein.

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Can you feel it if your blood sugar is too high or low?

Although the only way to know for sure is to test, some people pick up on their body's subtle clues -- such as extreme thirst, fatigue and weakness -- that their blood sugar levels are way too high or too low.

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Is it true that thin people don't need to worry about type 2?

There are a lot of factors involved in whether or not you'll develop type 2 diabetes. While obesity is one, as many as 15 percent of people with type 2 are at a healthy weight. So what's going on? Genetics, for one. But thin people may have a lot of visceral fat hidden around their abdominal organs -- fat which you can't jiggle.

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Can you have kids when you have diabetes?

There's little to no reason for most people living with diabetes not to. There's a higher risk of complications during pregnancy, but it can be mitigated by working with your doctor to keep blood sugars under control.

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It's recommended we eat no more than how many teaspoons of sugar in one day?

It's recommended women eat no more than six teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar in one day, and men, no more then nine (36 grams). It sounds like a lot, but most Americans eat way too much. For instance, a 1/2-cup of store-bought tomato sauce can have up to 12 grams. And a handful of dried cranberries? That's the equivalent of more than seven teaspoons of sugar.

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Even if you improve your blood sugar levels with lifestyle changes, is it true you'll always have a tendency toward having higher-than-normal levels?

This is true for kids and adults with type 2 diabetes. It's great to be managing blood sugar levels with diet, exercise and other lifestyle modifications as necessary, but type 2 tends to leave you prone to having high blood sugar levels.

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What, in addition to eating too much sugar, causes diabetes?

This is a big one: Sugar does not directly cause diabetes. It's not innocent, at all, because it causes weight gain and obesity, which is a risk factor.

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Living with diabetes increases a person's odds of having a heart attack by how much?

A known complication of living with diabetes is the increased odds of having a heart attack -- it's double that of a person who doesn't have diabetes. Good blood sugar control can keep it in check.

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As many as 85 percent of people with type 2 are overweight or obese. Does being overweight cause diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes has nothing at all to do with weight. Being overweight (a body mass index over 25) does put you at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, though. Obesity (a body mass index that's 30 or greater) is a major risk.

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How much weight, on average, does a person gain during the first year on insulin?

No, insulin doesn't directly cause weight gain. Why, then, do some people do report that they did, in fact, gain weight after starting insulin injections? It has to do with your kidneys, actually. Before insulin, your kidneys weren't very efficient, and were unable to hold on to the calories you were consuming. Once insulin is started, your body is now able to hold on to more of the nutrients and calories it couldn't previously.

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Where's the best place to inject insulin?

Although you can inject insulin into any of these areas, as well as the buttocks, injections into the abdomen work the fastest.

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Is it true or false that having an insulin pump means you can set it and forget it?

Monitoring and managing diabetes is a 24/7 job. An insulin pump, in which you enter your blood glucose levels and meal information, continuously monitors your glucose and is programmed to your body's needs. But you can't just set it and forget it -- it only follows what you've told it to do.

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If you have diabetes, can you give blood?

You can! According to the American Red Cross, as long as your blood sugar level is well controlled on insulin or oral medications, you're good.

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What raises a mom's risk of developing type 2 diabetes?

Developing gestational diabetes during your pregnancy, giving birth to a big baby (more than nine pounds), and, if you have a history of gestational diabetes, not losing the baby weight can raise your odds of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

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Why is injecting insulin so painful?

The only thing you can do to make it less painful is to do it -- practice is what will help. To inject with a syringe, "pinch up" the skin and inject at a 45 to 90 degree angle (depending on the needle length). Relax your pinch, count to five, and remove the needle. Thinner needles and shorter pen needles can make things less painful, too (and you don't have to pinch your skin).

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Is it true or false that some people just naturally have high blood sugar levels, that aren't diabetes-related?

High blood sugar levels are never normal, although they don't always mean you have diabetes. Some common medications, like corticosteroids, niacin (a B vitamin), oral contraceptives and decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine are all known to boost your blood sugar levels.

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Not all diabetes is caused by the same thing. Which type is an autoimmune disease?

Type 1 diabetes, which used to be called juvenile diabetes because it's mostly diagnosed in children and teenagers, is an autoimmune disease that causes your body's immune system to attack insulin-producing cells in your pancreas.

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Is it true a person with diabetes is more likely to catch a cold?

No, diabetes doesn't increase your risk of catching a cold or coming down with the flu. However, if you do get sick, it can make it harder to keep your blood sugar level under control. According to the CDC, a person with diabetes who comes down with the flu is three times more likely to need hospitalization than a person without diabetes.

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Losing how much of your body weight has big health benefits, including for diabetes?

Losing just 7 percent of your body weight, which is about 15 pounds for a 200-pound person, can help bring your blood sugar levels into the normal range -- without medications to help.

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Which population is less affected by diabetes?

Diabetes does not affect all populations equally. Black, Hispanic and Native American populations are two to three times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. And, the amputation rates are higher in these minority populations as well.

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Does type 1 diabetes stunt your growth?

Once known as "juvenile" diabetes because typically its onset is during childhood and adolescence, type 1 diabetes will not stunt a child's growth if his or her blood sugar levels are kept under control. Uncontrolled, high blood sugars, with or without complications, may, though.

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Is it dangerous to become dehydrated when you're living with diabetes?

It can be. A condition called polydipsia, which is a prolonged dehydration that causes dizziness, fainting, headaches and nausea, can make your blood sugar levels rise quickly. People living with undiagnosed or untreated diabetes are at a higher risk of developing a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, which can lead to coma, organ failure and death.

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Is it true more people with diabetes use herbal and dietary supplements than people without diabetes?

According to the American Diabetes Association, it's true that people living with diabetes, in an effort to cure or reduce their symptoms, are more likely to try dietary and herbal supplements. Don't bother, though, the ADA says. There's no evidence any are effective.

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