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Hispanic Health: Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

Family enjoying cookoutGovernment leaders and close-knit families. Olympic athletes and celebrated artists. This month we commemorate Hispanic and Latino culture, connection and contributions.

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15–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. And while recognizing their many contributions and achievements, let's also acknowledge Hispanic and Latino people's greater risk for type 2 diabetes and take action to prevent it.

Greater Diabetes Risk

Over their lifetimes, 40% of US adults are expected to develop type 2 diabetes. That number is even higher for Hispanic men and women—more than 50%.

  • Hispanic people are about 50% more likely to die from diabetes than whites.
  • More than 1 in 3 US adults have prediabetes (see below), and Hispanic people are at greater risk than non-Hispanics.
  • Diabetes is associated with serious health complications, including chronic kidney disease [1.08 MB], or CKD. CKD can lead to kidney failure. A person with kidney failure will need regular dialysis (a treatment that filters the blood) or a kidney transplant to survive. Hispanics are about one and a half times more likely to develop kidney failure than non-Hispanics.
Grandson and grandmother eating apples

Kick off a healthy new tradition this National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Diabetes and Prediabetes Basics

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 makes a hormone called insulin to help sugar get into the body's cells. 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 the blood, which over time can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and nerve damage leading to amputation of a foot or leg. Currently, more than 29 million US adults have diabetes, and 1 in 4 of them don't know they have it.

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake) and can't yet be prevented. It's usually diagnosed in children and young adults. Type 2 diabetes develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults (though increasingly in children, teens, and young adults). It often can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle including physical activity, healthy eating, and weight loss. 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 yet to be diagnosed as diabetes. A person with prediabetes is at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, including 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 fewer than three times a week
  • Ever had gestational diabetes or gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds

Hispanic people are more likely to develop prediabetes and type 2 diabetes than non-Hispanics. There often are no clear symptoms, so it's important to talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any risk factors.

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes: Getting Started

Research shows that modest weight loss and regular physical activity can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by up to 58% 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 a day, five days a week.

The first step: take the simple quiz at to find out your prediabetes risk. The website also features lifestyle tips and links to prevention programs across the country that are recognized by CDC as part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP).

The National DPP helps people with prediabetes make lasting lifestyle changes to improve their health. Participants work with a trained lifestyle coach and share experiences with others who have the same goals and challenges. Many who have participated in the program say they have more energy, less stress, and better checkups. Check out these stories from people who completed the program and saw results.


You may have heard that type 2 diabetes runs in families, but it's not only because people are related. Sometimes families share certain habits that can increase risk. A family history of diabetes doesn't have to be your heritage. Make healthy choices part of the celebration during National Hispanic Heritage Month and throughout the year, and you'll start a great new family tradition that can grow stronger and healthier every year.