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Why Diabetes Is Worse for Latinos and African Americans

By

Sandra Gordon

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

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Anyone can be affected by diabetes, the condition in which your blood sugar, also called blood glucose, is too high. Almost one-third of all Americans have it in some form. Still, you’re at higher risk for the disease if you’re African American or Hispanic. Consider this: Compared to non-Hispanic whites, the risk for diabetes is 77% higher for African Americans and 66% higher among Hispanic Americans.

The good news? No matter your race, many of the factors that increase the risk for diabetes are within your power to change. Studies suggest people of these ethnic backgrounds have a higher risk for diabetes and its complications because they’re less aware of diabetes symptoms, don’t have their diabetes under control, or lack health insurance to get the care they need.

On top of tracking your diet and blood sugar, regular exercise is a key part of managing your diabetes. And while any exercise is better than none, certain activities have specific benefits for people with diabetes.

2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

It’s well documented that diabetes can threaten your life. If it’s not managed, it can lead to blindness, limb amputation, kidney failure, heart attack, and stroke. But remember, your DNA isn’t your destiny. You have the power to keep yourself in good health. Here’s how.

Know you’re at risk. Reducing your risk for diabetes starts with simply knowing it’s a major health threat. When you’re more aware, you can take steps to prevent the disease and manage the condition if you have it. According to the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL), a landmark study published in  Diabetes Care, many people in the study didn’t even know they had diabetes. Awareness starts with understanding the signs and symptoms of the disease. Some of the most common include:

  • Being thirsty

  • Blurry eyesight

  • Having sores that won’t heal

  • Losing weight for no reason

  • Needing to urinate often

  • Often feeling hungry and tired

If you have these symptoms, don’t ignore them. Go see a doctor for a checkup—it matters. For example, African Americans are 50% more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness, than non-Hispanic whites, largely because they may be less likely to visit the doctor. Being mindful of symptoms can prevent this and other diabetes-related problems from taking a toll on your health.
Get insured. Is a lack of health insurance holding you back from getting the regular healthcare you need? If so, you’re not alone. Many of the Hispanic Americans in the HCHS/SOL study didn’t have health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act makes paying for health insurance easier. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for help with paying your insurance premiums, cost-sharing, and other healthcare costs. For more information about low-cost health insurance options, visit www.healthcare.gov or call  800-318-2596. Assistance is available in multiple languages.

Take charge of your health. If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, there are things you can do to get it under control. Studies show fewer Hispanic and African Americans with diabetes are managing their blood sugar well. When your blood sugar is high for too long, you’re at risk for diabetes problems, the most serious of which are heart disease and stroke.

The first step is knowing your numbers. What should your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels be? Keeping track can help you stay healthier.

You’ll need to monitor your blood sugar, take your diabetes medication as directed, make healthy food choices, and exercise regularly. Those lifestyle changes may sound overwhelming, but your doctor and other healthcare providers are there to support you. They can help you set goals and work toward them. For your health, it’s worth it.

Key Takeaways

  • Compared to non-Hispanic whites, the risk for diabetes is 77% higher for African Americans and 66% higher among Hispanic Americans.

  • Studies suggest people of these ethnic backgrounds have a higher risk because they’re less aware of diabetes symptoms, don’t have their diabetes under control, or lack health insurance.

  • Reducing your risk for diabetes starts with knowing it’s a major health threat and being aware of symptoms.

  • If you have diabetes, you have the power to control it, by monitoring your blood sugar, taking your medication as directed, eating well, and exercising. Your doctor and other healthcare providers are there to support you.

  • The Affordable Care Act makes paying for health insurance easier. To learn more about low-cost insurance options, visitwww.healthcare.gov or call 800-318-2596.

Was this helpful? (28)
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Mar 24, 2017

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Prevalence of Diabetes Among Hispanics/Latinos From Diverse Backgrounds: The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL). N Schneiderman, M Llabre, et al. Diabetes Care. Vol 37, August 2014. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/37/8/2233.full.pdf+html
  2. The Disparate Impact of Diabetes on Racial/Ethnic Minority Populations. E Chow, H Foster, et al. Clinical Diabetes, Vol 30 Number 3. 2012. http://clinical.diabetesjournals.org/content/30/3/130.full.pdf+html
  3. Your Guide to Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/type1and2/index.aspx
  4. The Health Insurance Marketplace & People with Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/HealthinsuranceMarketplaces

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