The latest statistics about diabetes suggest that more than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes. That's 9.4% of the population, yet there are still a lot of damaging myths that people have about the disease, including what it actually is.
Diabetes is essentially a disease that occurs because a person's blood glucose, aka blood sugar, is too high, says Rekha Kumar, MD, MS, an endocrinologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine. Blood sugar comes from the foods you eat, and gets turned into energy for your cells with the help of insulin, a hormone that's secreted by the pancreas. "The difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes would be the mechanism by which that high blood sugar occurred," she says. People with type 1 diabetes don't make enough insulin to utilize the sugar that they eat, while people with type 2 diabetes can make insulin, but their body can't respond properly to it.
Perhaps the most problematic assumption that people have about diabetes is that it's the person's fault that they got it. The bottom line is that diabetes is far more complex than just the sugar that people eat, Dr. Kumar says. "It's hard for people to get their blood sugar under control, even if they're eating the 'right' thing," she says.