I came across this excellent article online yesterday on msnbc.com, which discusses the stigma often associated with having diabetes. The personal stories made me sad, then made me mad, and then I decided to take matters into my own hands and discuss this very important topic as this week's blog.
Mary's story is one that I hear from my patients on a regular basis - there is often a feeling of shame associated with having type 2 diabetes. Because type 2 diabetes is often seen in association with overweight, there is a stigma upheld by many members of the general public that people who have diabetes are lazy, eat too much, don't exercise, and are not interested in their health.
What people need to realize, is that it is not the fault of the individual that they have diabetes. There is a very strong genetic basis for developing diabetes (as blogged previously), and a very strong genetic basis for obesity as well (read more here), which we are learning more about every day as new genes involved are continuously being discovered. Furthermore, there are many people out there with type 2 diabetes who are not overweight or obese - this speaks to the very strong genetic tendency towards developing diabetes in these individuals. While it is true that eating well and exercising are the cornerstones of the management of type 2 diabetes, and can certainly improve diabetes control, it is not possible for most people with diabetes to make it go away with these lifestyle changes.
When I am discussing optimization of diabetes control with my patients, they often tell me that they feel embarrassed to check their blood sugars in public, or to administer medications or insulin in front of other people. As a result, they may choose to forgo checking sugars or administering medications at times like lunch, when they are often out in public. It breaks my heart each time I hear this - how can our society be so cruel and judgemental?
It's high time that our society gets a grip on what it actually means to have type 2 diabetes. This disease has a strong genetic predisposition; our extremely toxic, fast food, sedentary enviroment is conducive to bringing it out in many people who are genetically prone.
People with diabetes who are seen checking blood sugars or administering insulin in public are showing committment and motivation to watch their numbers, and to do everything they can to optimize their glycemic control and their health - they deserve a HIGH FIVE! from all of us!
And a High Five to msnbc.com for writing this fabulous article - I hope their far reach will do well to get this message out to many. Feel free to pass on this article as well, to everyone you know!
Dr Sue Pedersen www.drsue.ca © 2011 email@example.com
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