By Alan L. Rubin, Cait James

As you go through life with diabetes, you’ll be exposed to many “experts” and different ideas about the best way to manage your disease. Before you make a major change in your diabetes program, run the new ideas by your doctor or diabetes educator to make sure it will help and not hurt you.

Here are a few of the more common myths about diabetes — save yourself some grief and ignore them.

  • People with diabetes shouldn’t exercise. This myth probably arose from the rare person with diabetes who has severe eye disease and probably shouldn’t jar his or her eyes. For the vast majority of people with diabetes, the truth is the opposite. Exercise is one of the best ways to help bring your diabetes under control.

  • People with diabetes can only engage in moderate exercise, like walking. The large number of people with diabetes who are professional athletes should be all the proof you need that, with proper precautions, including checking with your doctor before you begin high-intensity exercise, you can do any level of exercise you desire (and it will further improve your diabetes). If in doubt about whether a form of exercise is safe for you, as always, talk with your doctor.

  • People with diabetes can’t get life insurance. This myth can easily be proven false by checking with a few insurance companies. They’ll be more than happy to accept your premium for insurance.

  • Needing insulin shots means you’re at the end of your disease. In fact, insulin is often used early in diabetes to get control of blood glucose. Many patients on insulin can come off it with just lifestyle changes. Insulin is just another tool for good diabetes care.

  • Low blood glucose kills brain cells. Studies have shown that adults who have low blood glucose have no loss of mental functioning. Children whose brains are still developing need to be protected from low blood glucose, however.

  • Eating a piece of cake is dangerous. Sure, your blood glucose may go a little higher, but you can easily bring it down with exercise or medication. An occasional slip is not irreversible.

  • If you take your medicine, follow a healthy diet, and get enough exercise, your glucose will be perfect every time. So many things go into determining your blood glucose, including your mental state and menses (for menstruating women), that you shouldn’t be surprised if an occasional blood glucose measurement is out of the acceptable range.

  • There are simple cures for diabetes like acupuncture, yoga, or chromium. Unfortunately, to date there are no simple cures for diabetes. If one is found, you’ll hear about it. Until then, it’s diet, exercise, and medication.

  • You can’t be spontaneous when you have diabetes. The fact is, you can live your life much like the person without diabetes, but the addition of a better diet and plenty of exercise will probably make you healthier than your friend who doesn’t have diabetes.

  • Diabetes is inherited. Type 1 diabetes is rarely found in two members of the same family. Type 2 diabetes does run in families but that has more to do with family dietary habits and lack of exercise than heredity. You are not to blame if your child develops diabetes, and you can’t pin your diabetes on your parents.