Diabetes Risk Factors in Hispanic Women

There are many genetic, racial and sociocultural factors that predispose women of Hispanic origins living in America to diabetes. Diabetes affects about one fourth of Hispanic women in the United States, and is much more common in Hispanic women than in men of a Hispanic background. Diabetes accounts for about one third of the deaths of Hispanic women in the United States and this rate, especially in the border states, has been rapidly rising in the last decades. Even then, the rate of death from diabetes may be much higher since diabetes can provoke other abrupt disorders, like heart attack or stroke. In these cases, it may be the underlying diabetes that was really the cause of death, provoking the stroke or heart attack in the first place.

There are some risk factors that are specific to the Hispanic population in the United States. Studies have shown that within the Hispanic population there are genetic markers which predispose people to this disease. As people within this group marry and procreate with each other, this genetic trait gets passed along and becomes more common in the general population. Another factor that predisposes Hispanic individuals in the United States is obesity. Almost half of the population of Hispanic women in the United States is overweight, compare to about one third in the case of Caucasian females. The rates of pre-diabetic conditions are also higher in studies conducted on Hispanic women in the United States.

Not only is the risk for diabetes itself higher, Hispanic women are also more vulnerable to the more severe complications of diabetes: diabetic retinopathy, amputation and kidney failure. Studies have shown that the risk for all of these is significantly higher in women of Hispanic backgrounds in the United States. Gestational diabetes is also riskier in Hispanic women, with a higher risk of severe complications in the infant’s development inside the womb.

As with all diabetes, management of diabetes in this sector of the population involves important lifestyle changes as well as a strict monitoring of diet and exercise. In the case of Hispanic women in the United States, it will also be important to address sociocultural factors that may be contributing to a lack of exercise and a poor diet. In the case of single mothers with low incomes, the risk for diabetes is even higher since they will have problems finding the time to exercise and buying the more expensive healthier alternatives at the grocery store.

A campaign of education on the dangers of diabetes and the risk factors for this disease, combined with a serious response to the economic factors that predispose these individuals to diabetes will go a long way to reducing this disease in Hispanic women. A response is urgently needed, as the rate of disease and the high mortality rate have now reached epidemic proportions. It may also be important to evaluate how the rates of diabetes compare between women of Hispanic origins living in the United States (also called “Hispanic Americans”) and women living in their countries of origin. The specific diet and American lifestyle may be having a compounding effect on the risk for this disease and a serious evaluation of this effect may be needed.

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