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Hispanic Health Focus: Preventing Diabetes

Large group of peopleCelebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month by lowering your diabetes risk.

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15, we celebrate the culture of US residents who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. While heritage includes the great traditions of family, respect for others, and festivities, it also includes the challenge of hereditary health conditions. You can celebrate by taking care of your health to prevent type 2 diabetes.

Greater Diabetes Risk

Approximately 2 in 5 US adults are expected to develop diabetes during their lifetime, and the numbers look even worse for some racial and ethnic minority groups: 1 in 2 Hispanic men and women and non-Hispanic black women are expected to develop the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 29 million people aged 20 years or older in the United States have diabetes (12.3% of the adult population), and 1 in 4 of them do not know it.

  • Hispanics have a 51% higher death rate from diabetes than whites.
  • Eighty-six million people—more than 1 in 3—aged 20 years or older have prediabetes, and Hispanics are at greater risk than non-Hispanics.
  • Without lifestyle changes to improve their health, 15% to 30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years.
  • Diabetes can lead to many health complications, including kidney failure. Hispanics are about one and a half times more likely than non-Hispanics to develop end-stage renal disease, or kidney failure [2.31 MB].
Family eating breakfast

Families can pass on a heritage of healthy eating.

What Are Diabetes and Prediabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose (sugar) levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into sugar for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help sugar get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in teens and young adults, and we don't know how to prevent it. Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in adults (although it is becoming more common in children) and is linked to obesity. It can often be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle—getting enough physical activity, eating healthy foods, and losing weight. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. A person with prediabetes is at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, such as heart disease and stroke. You may have prediabetes and be at risk for type 2 diabetes if you

  • Are 45 years of age or older.
  • Are overweight.
  • Have a family history of type 2 diabetes.
  • Have high blood pressure.
  • Are physically active less than three times a week.
  • Ever had gestational diabetes or gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds.

In addition to these factors, Hispanic people are more likely than non-Hispanics to develop prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. But the good news is that you may be able to prevent both of these health problems!

Take the quiz now to learn your risk (English /en español).

What You Need to Know About Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

Research shows that modest weight loss and regular physical activity can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in people with prediabetes. Modest weight loss means 5% to 7% of body weight, which is 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Getting at least 150 minutes each week of physical activity, such as brisk walking, also is important. That's just 30 minutes of physical activity a day, 5 days a week.

The lifestyle change program offered through the National Diabetes Prevention Program, led by CDC, can help people learn and use the healthy habits needed to prevent type 2 diabetes. You can find a program in your community.

Along with your heritage and culture, be sure to pass on healthy habits to your children and their children. You'll start a great new family tradition of preventing type 2 diabetes.

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