Here’s Why Hispanic Americans Are at Higher Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

by Nikki Naser

Image Attribution: Jauhari

This post on diabetes in Hispanic Americans is the second in our series about getting back to good health in a pandemic. (In case you missed it, here’s the first post on how COVID can affect diabetic patients.)

Type 2 diabetes is one of Central Florida’s top ten health concerns and a condition that shows up even more frequently in the Hispanic community.

Even though diabetes is a multi-system disease and can impact many aspects of your health, it’s also an issue that people have ignored or minimized during COVID. If this is you, here’s what you can do to get back on track.

Everyone’s heard of diabetes, but here are a few surprising statistics you might not know about this chronic illness.

Around 1 in 10 Americans has diabetes, and 1 in 3 have prediabetes. Adults in the United States have a 40% chance of developing type 2 diabetes, but if you are a Hispanic American, that risk jumps to more than 50% on average

Many Latinx Americans aren’t diagnosed until their late 30s or early 40s, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry about it until then. The number of kids and teens (ages 10-19) with type 2 diabetes is rising

Just knowing that you’re more at risk for type 2 diabetes is a great place to start. Let’s talk about why Americans of Hispanic descent are more likely to get diabetes and what you can do about it.

Why is the Hispanic community more at risk for type 2 diabetes?

Some of the common risk factors for type 2 diabetes include genetics, weight, age, and how active you are. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you’re at higher risk if you:

Are overweight or obese

Are 45+ years old

Have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes

Are not very physically active (working out less than 3 times a week)

But what makes Hispanic people even more at risk? Stephanie Hunter, Medical Director at 26Health, points to cultural norms around diet and less access to nutritious foods:

“A lot of Hispanic communities have the challenges of being brought up eating fully carb-driven meals as part of [their] culture. … We pass down recipes and meals that we all grew up eating but are not necessarily the best for us.”

Aside from this, Hunter says we need to understand that Hispanic communities have a higher percentage of people with lower socioeconomic status, which may limit their access to higher-quality foods.

Hunter also says that there’s a lack of knowledge about diabetes in general among Hispanic people. “A common misconception is that diabetes is based on sugar intake, not carbs. Also, it is believed that if you go to the doctor, you will end up on insulin. Both are not true, but we can help educate people to move away from this inaccurate information.”

What can Hispanic people do to prevent type 2 diabetes?

It may seem pretty unrealistic to expect you to just throw out your family recipes and change the foods and dishes you grew up eating. But there are much smaller steps you can take to help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Tip 1: Watch your carbs and not just how much sugar you’re eating.

It’s not just sugar that you need to watch out for. Highly processed carbs like white bread, white pasta, white rice, and tortillas cause a spike in your blood sugar. Keep this in mind and look for minimally processed carb sources like whole-grain bread or brown rice.

“Here at 26Health, we educate patients on carb ratios, meaning for every carb you eat, there is a direct correlation to the amount of insulin you will produce in your pancreas. This helps people understand label reading and percentages,” says Hunter.

Tip 2: Try losing 10 pounds if you’re overweight.

Instead of thinking about losing a bunch of weight, try starting with a realistic goal of 10 pounds. For someone who weighs 200 pounds, losing just 10-15 pounds can help keep prediabetes from turning into type 2 diabetes.

Tip 3: Come in for simple labwork to see where you’re at.

At 26Health, we perform a simple panel of labs that are very thorough in determining where each patient is. Labs help us figure out if you’re prediabetic or have type 1 or 2 diabetes, and where we should go from there.

If you’re willing to take the first step, make an appointment and we can work together to find out your risk level and what to do next. Just give us a call, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about Type 2 diabetes.