• Cardiovascular

    The importance of diagnosing, treating diabetes in the Hispanic population in the US

Type 2 diabetes accounts for approximately 90%–95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This chronic illness has been called a global health crisis, and it affects some people more than others.

"Diabetes definitely is a problem both nationally and internationally, particularly among Hispanics," says Dr. Richard O. White, a community internal medicine physician at Mayo Clinic. "Hispanics are one of the ethnic groups that carry a significant burden of diabetes, particularly in the United States. "

Watch: Dr. Richard O. White talks about diabetes in the Hispanic population in the US.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video is available in the downloads at the end of the post. Please courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network. Name super/CG: Richard O. White, M.D./Community Medicine/Mayo Clinic.

Hispanics include people from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and South and Central America. The CDC says Hispanics living in the U.S. are 17% more likely to have Type 2 diabetes than non-Hispanic white people. But for those with Puerto Rican or Mexican heritage, the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes can be twice as much, compared to those with South American heritage.

"It's interesting, when you look at the differences in Type 2 diabetes risk among Hispanic subgroups," says Dr. White. "There are lots of risk factors for diabetes."

"We need to empower people with the knowledge and the skills that they need to be able to better control diabetes and avoid the complications that often come with it."

Dr. Richard O. White, Community Medicine, Mayo Clinic

Risk factors may include genetic factors, obesity, environmental, age, being inactive or a sedentary lifestyle.


Complications from Type 2 diabetes can be serious if not managed. 

"When diabetes goes for a long time, and it's either undiagnosed or is not adequately treated, there can be complications that come along with it. You can have increased risk for heart disease or kidney problems. And you can develop problems with the nerves and problems with the eyesight with diabetes," says Dr. White. "It's really important that diabetes is identified, and that it's adequately treated and controlled in order to avoid those complications," Dr. White says.

Type 2 diabetes increases the risk for a number of conditions that may severely impact a person's health including:

  • Heart and vessel disease.
  • Neuropathy.
  • Cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Hearing impairment.
  • Dementia.

When to seek medical attention

Many people can be living with Type 2 diabetes and not know it. It often develops over time. Learn the signs and see your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes may include:

  • Increased thirst.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Increased hunger.
  • Unintended weight loss.
  • Fatigue.

Testing for diabetes can be as simple as a taking a blood test. It's usually diagnosed using fasting blood sugar levels or the glycated hemoglobin, or A1C, test. Type 2 diabetes cannot be cured. However, it can be controlled and managed through weight loss, healthy eating, regular exercise, and medication or insulin therapy if needed.

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