What Hispanics Need to Know About Diabetes

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While diabetes can be a concern for anyone, if you are a Hispanic adult, you should be especially alert. Hispanics are nearly twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. Also, Hispanic adults with diabetes are more likely to suffer from diabetes complications, including death.

Because of this increased risk, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggests special screening for Hispanics. Hispanics who are overweight may need to be screened for diabetes earlier than the general population.

Higher Rates of Diabetes

Overall, Hispanic adults are 1.7 times more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes. However, rates differ among different Hispanic groups. Cubans and Central and South American Hispanics have about the same diabetes risk as non-Hispanic white adults. Puerto Ricans are 94% more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed. Mexicans have an 87% higher risk of diagnosis.

Currently, a Hispanic woman born in 2000 has an estimated 52.5% risk of developing diabetes in her lifetime. A Hispanic man born in the same year has a 45.4% risk. These numbers are substantially higher than those for nonminority groups. Among non-Hispanic whites, the rates are 31.2% for females and 26.7% for males.

Diabetes in Teens and Older Adults

Type 2 diabetes is rare among teens and adolescents. However, the rates are rising—especially among Hispanics.

Diabetes prevalence increases with age. Among Hispanics, adults ages 65 and older are most likely to have diabetes.

Why Are Hispanics at Greater Risk?

There are many reasons Hispanics are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. Limited access to quality health care, genetics, and cultural factors may be at play. For example, research shows that the average Mexican American diet is poor. Specifically, it is high in calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. According to the ADA, eating healthy foods is one of the most important steps in preventing type 2 diabetes.

Hispanics are also more likely to be overweight or obese than non-Hispanic white adults. About 32% of Hispanics are obese, compared to 26% of non-Hispanic whites. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Plus, obesity is associated with a greater risk of dying from type 2 diabetes.

Higher Risk for Complications

Hispanics with diabetes are more prone to complications from the disease. They are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, end-stage renal disease, disability, and death from diabetes. Mexican Americans are 50% more likely to die from diabetes compared to non-Hispanic whites. Hispanics with diabetes also have high rates of depression.

Access to quality health care may be part of the issue. Research shows that Hispanics older than age 40 are less likely to have a flu vaccine, foot exam, or retinal eye exam. These are important to prevent complications.

What Can You Do?

Talk with your family about diabetes. A family history of diabetes raises your risk of developing the disease. The ADA recommends that all adults receive their first diabetes screening at age 45. But earlier screening should be considered if you are overweight and obese and have a parent, sibling, or child with diabetes. Hispanics who are overweight or obese should also get earlier screening.

Key Takeaways

  • Hispanics are nearly twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites.

  • Hispanic adults with diabetes are more likely to suffer from complications, including death.

  • Reasons for this higher risk may include limited access to quality health care, obesity, genetics, and cultural factors such as diet.

  • The ADA suggests special diabetes screenings for Hispanics.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Feb 2

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