Myths, Misconceptions and Half Truths
Like so many things these days, the world of diabetes is awash in statistics. A visit to any of the prominent diabetes websites, such as the American Diabetes Association, unveils a plethora of overwhelming data. As someone coming from the business side of diabetes, I have become immune to the statistics that continually point to the negatives of diabetes. We find repeatedly, the correlation of complications with management and news of the worldwide diabetes crisis that has come to be labeled a global epidemic.
In the words of Mark Twain, "Figures don't lie, but liars figure". Put into context and “figured” differently, many of the stats for diabetes can be very misleading. First and foremost, complications from diabetes may happen seemingly at random, at times, even those who have well managed diabetes may experience adverse events. Diabetes is a chronic condition which to date has no cure. Diabetes is a constant challenge, forever changing as the individual changes. As I like to remind myself, a person does not get lung cancer from smoking one cigarette, and amazingly 40% of the individuals diagnosed with lung cancer have NEVER smoked a day in their lives. The truth is, sometimes there is randomness to health and we need to look at the data with the ability to interpret differently.
The statistics however, can serve a seemingly backhanded purpose that many of us living with diabetes have experienced. The statistics can at times be used as an attempt to “scare patients” into better “controlling” their diabetes. In my opinion, this is a major mistake by any healthcare team or organization. No person, adult or child, responds well to fear and shame. As someone living with diabetes, it can be frustrating to watch diabetes advocacy and patient care turn into a game of dollars.
Too often, we are not presented with a different picture of the diabetes facts. I’m offering a different lens to view them.
- Complications do not happen overnight and can happen to individuals across the diabetes management spectrum. Complications disproportionately impact patients 65 years of age and older.
- There is a major disconnect between diabetes management that existed in the past and the advances we see today. While diabetes management will never be a joy, today, many of us have some of the best diabetes drugs, devices and apps ever developed.
- While many struggle to talk about it, I believe that the person living with diabetes carries a large proportion of the responsibility when it comes to diabetes “self” management. I believe diabetes is manageable IF we choose to manage it.
To those of you who are touched by diabetes, don't let the negative of the statistics overwhelm you. Do what you can to encourage and support the people you care about living with diabetes. Remember, for those of us living the diabetes life, we have been given an additional full time job, 365 days a year with no days off.