By: Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP
Over their lifetime, US adults overall have a 40% chance of developing type 2 diabetes. But if you’re a Hispanic/Latino American adult, your chance is more than 50%, and you’re likely to develop it at a younger age. Diabetes complications also hit harder: Hispanics/Latinos have higher rates of kidney failure caused by diabetes as well as diabetes-related vision loss and blindness.
Hispanic/Latino Americans make up a diverse group that includes people of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South and Central American, and other Spanish cultures, and all races. Each has its own history and traditions, but all are more likely to have type 2 diabetes (17%) than non-Hispanic whites (8%).
But that 17% is just an average for Hispanic/Latino American groups. The chance of having type 2 diabetes is closely tied to background. For example, if your heritage is Puerto Rican, you’re about twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes as someone whose background is South American.
- Genetics: Hispanics/Latinos have genes that increase their chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is very complicated, though, and the connection isn’t completely clear.
- Food: In some Hispanic/Latino cultures, foods can be high in fat and calories. Also, family celebrations may involve social pressure to overeat, and turning down food could be seen as impolite.
- Weight/activity: Hispanics/Latinos have higher rates of obesity and tend to be less physically active than non-Hispanic whites. And some see overweight as a sign of health instead of as a health problem.
It’s important to keep in mind that these risk factors are general and may not apply to individual Hispanic/Latino people or specific Hispanic/Latino groups.
Scientists have linked several gene mutations to a higher diabetes risk. Not everyone who carries a mutation will get diabetes. However, many people with diabetes do have one or more of these mutations.
It can be difficult to separate genetic risk from environmental risk. The latter is often influenced by your family members. For example, parents with healthy eating habits are likely to pass them on to the next generation.
On the other hand, genetics plays a big part in determining weight. Sometimes behaviors can’t take all the blame.
Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: pay attention to your choice of food, weight and activity to minimize the risk of diabetes.
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