Smart diet and fitness strategies are crucial with this all-too-prevalent condition.
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Getty ImagesFor the roughly 29 million Americans who suffer from type 2 diabetes, sifting fact from fiction about the illness can be a daunting task. Misconceptions about how best to treat and manage diabetes abound, while new research is refining scientists' understanding of how to treat patients all the time. Check out three common diabetes myths—and the real story. Plus, arm yourself with the best info for living with, and even preventing, the condition.

Myth 1: Once I'm diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, my health is in grave danger.
Reality: Serious complications associated with the disease, like vision and hearing loss, are far from inevitable. The key is getting regular checkups and keeping your glucose level within range. The American Diabetes Associationadvises receiving a glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test at least twice a year. In general, the goal is to keep your A1C level below 7 percent. (If your result is between 5.7 and 6.4 percent, that qualifies as prediabetes, which is reversible. See You Can Stop Prediabetes from Getting Worse, at right.) You can also check your glucose level yourself every day; treatment might include insulin and other medications.

Myth 2: If I have diabetes, I won't be able to eat my favorite foods anymore.
Reality: No single food or food category is off- limits, but you need to eat a healthy diet—low in sodium and saturated fats, high in fiber and full of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. And you have to balance what you eat (especially carbs) with your activity level and your medication to keep blood sugar at a safe count. Carbs are not forbidden; you simply have to pay attention to them when factoring dietary choices into the overall picture. In other words, the occasional treat is fine, but plan for it. While mapping things out in advance might take some getting used to, it usually becomes second nature over time.

Myth 3: Treating my diabetes is going to hurt. All those needles!
Reality: Many diabetes medications are taken in pill form, and the needles used to inject insulin drugs are much finer and less painful than they were in the past. There are also easy-to-use insulin pens, as well as pumps that attach to the body and release insulin on command. Most insurers cover insulin pens. Many also cover pumps, but because they can cost thousands of dollars, you may have to meet a few qualifications, such as demonstrating that your pancreas makes little insulin, that you haven't been able to maintain control with syringes or pens and that you're committed to testing your blood glucose multiple times daily. (For help with glucose monitoring, see right.) Talk to your doctor and insurance provider to determine what's best for you and what's covered under your plan.

Next Page: Make blood sugar testing a breeze [ pagebreak ]
Make blood sugar testing a breeze
Pricking your finger to obtain a drop of blood for home blood glucose monitoring can hurt. Here are six tried-and-true methods for making the process less painful.

Avoid pricking the fingertip: This part of the finger is especially sensitive and can be more painful than other areas. Aim for the side instead.

Don't use alcohol to sterilize your finger: Alcohol dries out the skin and tends to cause more cracking and pain. Better: Wash your finger in warm water.

Vary the fingers: Pick an easy-to- remember pattern to make sure you're not always going for the same site. If your finger is sore, don't prick it until it heals.

Don't reuse equipment: Know how to work your equipment properly, and replace the lancet each time. Lancets can get dull if they are used over again, resulting in a more painful prick.

Try not to squeeze blood from the fingertip: If you've tried pricking your finger and still don't have enough blood to perform the test, do this: Hang your hand below your waist for about five or six seconds. If necessary, you can gently squeeze your finger, beginning at the base (near the palm) and moving in an outward direction. It works better than squeezing higher up.

Find the right blood glucose monitor: Some blood glucose monitors actually require much less blood than others. So consider investing in a new model if you are routinely having trouble obtaining enough blood. Certain monitors allow you to use blood obtained from places on your body other than the finger (for example, the inside of your forearm or the palm of your hand).