We have brought this topic back to Zee Companion because South Asian communities can be up to six times more likely to have diabetes than the general population.

An NHS study says that Pakistani women are especially at risk. The risk of dying early from coronary heart disease is twice as high among South Asian groups compared to the general population.  Experts aren’t sure why this is the case, but it may be linked to diet, lifestyle and different ways of storing fat in the body.

Misinformation about diabetes is everywhere. An important first step in treating this serious condition is learning the facts. There are commonly held notions about diet, exercise, weight gain, and more that are sometimes false.

For example, many of us believe that eating too much sugar causes diabetes. But experts say that your diet does not cause diabetes, although there is recent evidence that drinking a lot of sugared drinks can increase your risk of developing diabetes if you are already at risk. While sugar per se does not cause diabetes, it does contribute to obesity, which is a major cause of diabetes. Obese people tend to eat a lot of sweets. But they also eat a lot of junk food and other high-calorie foods. Sugar is bad for diabetics because it elevates blood sugar, but so are foods that break down quickly into glucose in the blood, such as plain pasta, white bread, noodles, and white rice.

Another interesting myth about diabetes is that people with diabetes can’t eat sweets. Experts say there is no reason why type 2 diabetics can’t eat sweets as part of their healthy meal plan. When eaten in small portions or as a special treat, diabetics can eat whatever they want. The problem is that most of us eat too much of what we like. Diabetes doesn’t mean you can never have a piece of cake again, just a smaller piece, and you’ll have to be careful about what you eat with that piece of cake. Dessert a couple of times of a month is OK, but not every night.

Here’s another myth: if you have diabetes, you can’t do too much exercise or you might get a low blood sugar attack. This actually isn’t true, according to the experts. If you are on insulin or a medication that increases insulin production in the body, you have to balance exercise, insulin, and diet.  However, many type 2 diabetics are not on insulin, and the most commonly used oral medications for diabetes, such as metformin and sitagliptin, don’t cause low blood sugar at all, no matter how much exercise you do. In fact, exercise is crucial to controlling diabetes, along with weight loss.

Finally, I have to mention the myth that we can ‘know’ when our blood sugar is high or low. Experts say you can’t rely on how you’re feeling when it comes to your blood sugar level. You may feel shaky, lightheaded, and dizzy because your blood sugar is low, or you may be coming down with the flu or you may even be stressed!  You may urinate a lot because your glucose is high, or because you have a bladder infection, or simply because you drank a lot of fluids that day. The longer you have diabetes, the less accurate those feelings become. The only way to know for sure is to check your blood sugar.

I felt it was important to bring these myths to light, as a way of ensuring that we address diabetes correctly and can do the right things to prevent it.