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Groups Especially Affected by Diabetes

How are women especially affected by diabetes?

Of the 25.6 million adults with diabetes in the United States in 2010, 12.6 million were women. The risk of heart disease, the most common complication of diabetes, is more serious among women than men. Among people with diabetes who have had a heart attack, women have lower survival rates and a poorer quality of life than men. Women with diabetes have a shorter life expectancy than women without diabetes, and women are at greater risk of blindness from diabetes than men. Death rates for women aged 25-44 years with diabetes are more than 3 times the rate for women without diabetes.

Women with diabetes must also plan childbearing carefully. It is especially important to keep blood glucose levels as near to normal as possible before and during pregnancy, to protect both mother and baby. Pregnancy itself may affect insulin levels, as well as diabetes-related eye and kidney problems.

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What is gestational diabetes?

Pregnant woman

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes, or high blood sugar, that only pregnant women get. If a woman gets high blood sugar when she's pregnant, but she never had high blood sugar before, she has gestational diabetes.

Managing gestational diabetes is very important in order to protect the baby. Babies born to mothers with uncontrolled gestational diabetes can be overly large at birth, making delivery more dangerous. These babies can also have breathing problems. Moreover, children exposed to diabetes in the womb are more likely to become obese during childhood and adolescence, and develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Usually, gestational diabetes goes away after the baby is born. However, women who have had gestational diabetes are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life, so healthy eating, physical activity, and weight maintenance are important steps to prevention.

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What racial and ethnic groups are especially affected by diabetes?

African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islander Americans are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes. In addition, gestational diabetes occurs more frequently in African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and American Indians than in other groups.

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Why do some racial and ethnic groups have higher rates of diabetes?

Diabetes can indeed “run in families," meaning that heredity often makes someone more likely to develop diabetes. Researchers believe that certain genes affecting immune response can play a role in the development of type 1 diabetes, while genes affecting insulin function can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. While African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islander Americans have a slightly lower rate of type 1 diabetes, they are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes than the rest of the population.

Many researchers think that some African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islander Americans inherited a "thrifty gene" which helped their ancestors store food energy better during times when food was plentiful, to survive during times when food was scarce. Now that “feast or famine” situations rarely occur for most people in the United States, the gene which was once helpful may now put these groups at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes.

In addition, poverty, lack of access to health care, cultural attitudes and behaviors are barriers to preventive and diabetes management care for some minority Americans.

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What are some diabetes resources focusing on African Americans?

African American mother and daughter

Here are just some of the many diabetes materials addressing African Americans specifically:

The Diabetes Epidemic Among African Americans [PDF–99 KB] from the National Diabetes Education Program

Diabetes in African Americans from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

Choose More Than 50 Ways to Prevent Diabetes [PDF–508 KB] tip sheet from the National Diabetes Education Program

Health Problems in African American Women: Diabetes from the National Women’s Health Information Center

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What are some diabetes resources focusing on Hispanic/Latino Americans?

Hispanic Family

Here are English-language diabetes materials addressing Hispanic/Latino Americans:

Diabetes in Hispanic Americans from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

Health Problems in Latina Women: Diabetes from the National Women’s Health Information Center

Latinos and Diabetes Web site section of the American Diabetes Association

Here are some Spanish-language diabetes materials:

The Spanish-language Web site section CDC En Español – Diabetes

Spanish and Hispanic-Related CDC Diabetes Publications

National Diabetes Education Program publications in Spanish

Prevengamos la diabetes tipo 2. Paso a Paso materials from the National Diabetes Education Program

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse publications in Spanish

Cobertura Medicare de Suministros y Servicios para Diabéticos [PDF–404 KB] (Medicare Coverage of Diabetes Supplies and Services) from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

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What are some diabetes resources focusing on American Indians and Alaska Natives?

Here are several publications about American Indians, Alaska Natives, and diabetes:

The CDC’s Native Diabetes Wellness Program which supports American Indian and Alaskan Native communities in developing effective strategies for diabetes care and prevention

The CDC's Diagnosed Diabetes Among American Indians and Alaska Natives Aged <35 Years — United States, 1994—2004

We Have the Power to Prevent Diabetes Tip Sheet from the National Diabetes Education Program

Diabetes in American Indians and Alaska Natives from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

I Can Lower My Risk for Type 2 Diabetes from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

The U.S. Indian Health Service’s Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention

Health Problems in American Indian/Alaska Native Women: Diabetes from the National Women’s Health Information Center

The Pima Indians: Pathfinders for Health from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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What are some diabetes resources focusing on Asian and Pacific Islander Americans?

Here are some resources specifically addressing diabetes among Asian and Pacific Islander Americans:

Diabetes in Asian and Pacific Islander Americans from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

Health Problems in Asian American/Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian Women: Diabetes from the National Women’s Health Information Center

Diabetes materials in a variety of Asian languages from the National Diabetes Education Program

Take Care of Your Heart. Manage Your Diabetes [PDF-238KB] materials from the National Diabetes Education Program

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How are children especially affected by diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes, which used to be called juvenile diabetes, is usually first diagnosed in children, teens, or young adults. In type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system attacks and destroys beta cells in the pancreas, so that they no longer make insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day. Approximately one of every 400 to 500 children and adolescents has type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, a disease usually diagnosed in adults aged 40 years or older, is now becoming more common among children and adolescents, particularly in American Indians, African Americans, and Hispanic/Latinos.

Among youth, obesity, physical inactivity, and prenatal exposure to diabetes in the mother have become widespread, and may contribute to the increased development of type 2 diabetes during childhood and adolescence.

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How are older adults especially affected by diabetes?

As we age, our risk for developing diabetes increases. More than one-third of all cases of diagnosed diabetes occur in people aged 65 years or older. Of people in the United States aged 65 years or older, approximately 26.9% (10.9 million) have diabetes. Diabetes often leads to chronic conditions that eventually result in death, such as heart disease and kidney disease. Thus, diabetes is often responsible for, but not listed as, the cause of many deaths.

See the following for more information:

Dealing with Diabetes from the National Institute on Aging

It’s Not Too Late to Prevent Diabetes [PDF–1 MB] from the National Diabetes Education Program

Cognitive and Physical Disabilities and Aging-Related Complications of Diabetes, a professional journal article from the American Diabetes Association

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How are some veterans affected by diabetes?

Vietnam veterans exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange may be at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. In the year 2000, the Veterans Administration announced that it would recognize diabetes as a Vietnam service-related disease.

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