Don’t eat this, don’t do that… knowing what you can and can’t do when you have Type 2 diabetes can be a minefield.

There are plenty of myths out there too – but arming yourself with knowledge will help you navigate a healthy way forward.

Dr Duma Khutsoane, a physician specialising in diabetes at Mediclinic Bloemfontein, separates the facts from the fiction.

Myth: Diabetics can’t eat fruit.

Fact: You can – but you have to know which fruit to avoid. Those that increase your blood sugar, like bananas, should be avoided but those on the low glycaemic index, such as apples, pears, plums and strawberries can be eaten in moderation. Green apples and green pears are especially acceptable, Dr Khutsoane says, as they cause the blood sugar to rise more slowly than many other fruits.

Myth: Only overweight people get diabetes.

Fact: While being overweight or obese is a risk factor, it doesn’t mean those who don’t have a problem with their weight aren’t at risk in other ways, Dr Khutsoane says.

If you have a family history of diabetes, if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol or if you belong to an ethnic group with a predisposition to the condition, you should get yourself tested. Genetics play a very important part – if a close relative has or had diabetes, there’s a 40% chance you could get it too.

Myth: Type 2 diabetes is an old person’s disease.

Fact: The condition is extremely common in South Africa in the middle-aged group, Dr Khutsoane says. “And this is a problem because this is a group that should be economically active yet their viability is being affected because they have diabetes.

“Absenteeism from work is high and complications can arise that make it difficult for them to work.”

This highlights the importance of early diagnosis, Dr Khutsoane adds. People in their 40s and 50s should be contributing to the economy, he says, not finding it difficult to work because they have diabetes.

Myth: Diabetes can be cured over time

Fact: When you have diabetes, you have it for life. It’s possible to live with diabetes if you get it under control, either with lifestyle management or medication or both, but you will never be “cured” of it, Dr Khutsoane says. “You need to be cognisant of it for the rest of your life.”

Doctors 1

Dr Duma Khutsoane, Physician
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