Diabetes: Are Hispanics at greater risk?
Diabetes is a widespread problem, and people within the Hispanic population have a greater diabetes risk than many other groups.
In fact, according to the Illinois Department of Health, diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death among Hispanics and Latinos in the United States and the fourth leading cause of death among Hispanic women and the elderly.
What is Diabetes?
When someone has diabetes, the body doesn’t have enough insulin or it has trouble converting insulin to energy. The lack of insulin causes sugar to build up in the blood, leading to high blood sugar. High blood sugar can cause all sorts of problems, including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Vision problems, including blindness
- Kidney problems
- Circulations problems that can lead to amputation
There are three types of diabetes: Type 1 (which usually begins in childhood and cannot be prevented), Type 2 (which often begins after childhood and can often be prevented), and gestational diabetes (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy). In this article, we’ll focus on Type 2 diabetes.
Risk for Hispanics and Latinos
For a number of reasons, Hispanics are more likely than the general population to develop diabetes. According to the IDH, 2.5 million Hispanic and Latino Americans over the age of 20 have diabetes. The American Diabetes Association states that Puerto Rican Americans have the highest incidence of diabetes among Hispanics, with Mexican Americans not far behind.
One alarming statistic provided by the IDH is that nearly half of Hispanic children born in the year 2000 are likely to develop diabetes during their lives. But that doesn’t have to happen. There are ways to reduce the diabetes risk.
Reducing the Risk
Some risk factors cannot be changed, but some risk factors, like weight, diet, and smoking, can be controlled. The best ways to prevent and help treat Type 2 diabetes are:
- Lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet low in carbs and sugar
- Exercise regularly
- Don’t smoke (or quit smoking)
- Take medications prescribed by your doctor and following your doctor’s advice – even if you’re feeling fine
If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, it’s important to take care of yourself. See your doctor regularly, and follow his or her instructions. Dr. Victor Munoz, family medicine physician on staff at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago recommends seeing your doctor every three months if you have diabetes and every year for screening if you don’t.
Screening for Diabetes
Dr. Munoz says all Hispanics over the age of 25 should be screened regularly for diabetes. He also says, “Any patient who is clinically obese should be checked regularly, and screenings should begin in childhood for anyone with a strong family history of diabetes.”
If you catch diabetes while it’s in the pre-diabetes stage, it can be entirely reversed. And the earlier you detect the disease, the better your chances for successfully treating it will be.
Check out the American Diabetes Association website to learn more about diabetes symptoms to watch out for, and find out what health enews says about how a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk for diabetes and other diseases.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.