Parkland’s Global Diabetes Program experts dispel myths, provide facts

Parkland’s Global Diabetes Program experts dispel myths, provide facts

Education helps control, prevent diabetes complications

Diabetes is one of the most critical health issues facing the country, but it is surrounded by almost as many myths as facts.

Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in America and in Texas, so it is very important that people become educated about its realities,” said Luigi Meneghini, MD, Executive Director of the Global Diabetes Program at Parkland Health & Hospital System and Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “Diabetes is a serious disease. Without proper management, it can lead to major health complications and death.”

The American Diabetes Association reports more than 29 million Americans, about one-tenth of the population, has diabetes. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and accounts for more than $245 billion in costs each year.

November is National Diabetes Month, designed to focus attention on the disease. But Dr. Meneghini emphasized that the Global Diabetes Program at Parkland is a year-round effort. “Our mission is to educate, support and encourage a healthy lifestyle, free of disease complications for people with diabetes,” he said.

Dr. Meneghini explained that the Global Diabetes Program provides a comprehensive approach to improve access to clinical care and more closely connect patients to care in their local communities. “While diabetes is a serious disease, there are many tools you can use to control it and prevent the complications,” he said.

That’s why it’s important to know the myths and facts. Here are some of the most common:

Myth Diabetes is not a serious disease.   Fact If it is uncontrolled, diabetes can be a very serious disease, causing more deaths than cancer and AIDS combined. Harmful effects include damage to eyes, feet, teeth and gums, and a doubling of your risk of having a heart attack.
Myth If you eat too much sugar, you’ll get diabetes.   Fact Eating too many calories from any source leads to someone becoming overweight and that is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, but sugar itself does not cause diabetes.
Myth Only overweight people develop type 2 diabetes.   Fact Weight is definitely a risk factor for diabetes, especially when excess weight is carried around the waist. But not all overweight people develop diabetes, and people of average weight sometimes do develop the disease. Some people are genetically predisposed to the condition and may not necessarily be overweight.
Myth People with diabetes have to eat a very limited and restricted diet.   Fact People with diabetes, like everyone, benefit from a healthy diet, one that includes portion control and reduction of saturated and trans fats, reduction of salt and sugar, and eating a diet based on lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and fruit.
Myth If you have diabetes, you only have to control sugar levels to avoid complications.   Fact In addition, it’s important to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

“More than 50,000 patients at Parkland carry a diagnosis of diabetes,” said Kellie Rodriguez, MSN, MBA, CDE, Director of Diabetes Education and Community Engagement for Parkland’s Global Diabetes Program and Faculty Associate at UT Southwestern. “And unfortunately many Dallas County residents seek medical attention when disease complications have already begun.”

Rodriguez said that there are almost 90 million Americans who have prediabetes, a condition in which sugar levels are not high enough to be classified as diabetes, but are elevated above normal levels. People with prediabetes have a 50 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes if they don’t make significant lifestyle changes, such as diet and physical activity.

“But diabetes complications are not an inevitable part of the disease. Individuals must become educated about diabetes and learn how to take control,” Rodriguez said.

For more information about the Global Diabetes Program at Parkland, please call 214.648.2899. For more information about services available at Parkland, visit