Minorities and the Increased Risk of Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Minorities and the Increased Risk of Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Posted By The Maher Law Firm || 7-Apr-2014

170079885Preventative health care begins with things like a healthy diet, regular exercise, and good stress-management practices. But there are some things that may affect your risks of disease that you can't control-and your race is one of them.

Research shows minorities are at an increased risk of diabetes when compared with whites, and the Office of Minority Health (OMH) at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is pairing up with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to raise awareness and address this disparity.

Health disparities put minorities at greater risks

The OMH reports that minorities have higher rates of diabetes, lower rates of proper diabetes management, and a greater risk of related complications. For instance, they say, the death rate among Hispanics with diabetes is 50 percent higher than for non-Hispanic whites with the disease.

There are many reasons for racial health disparities-income level, access to quality health care, and cultural attitudes are just a few. When it comes to preventable lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease, the risks are elevated when minorities live in areas without access to healthy foods, known as "food deserts", common in densely populated urban areas.

But one troubling aspect of racial health disparities that is often not discussed because it is uncomfortable to do so is the possibility that they receive biased health care. According to one study published in the March 2012 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, two-thirds of doctors held unconscious racial biases in regards to patients.

Those racial biases translated to doctors talking over their patients, paying less attention to patient concerns, and not including patients in their own healthcare decisions. Lisa Cooper of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, lead author of the study, remarked that their research and countless other studies have found minorities don't receive the same level of care as whites in the U.S. healthcare industry.

Another study published this month in the Annals of Family Medicine similarly implicated clinician bias in healthcare disparities.

For minorities, this evidence means it's crucial to take the reins in their own healthcare-diabetes prevention and treatment included.

Type 2 diabetes: The basics

Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease that happens when the body is no longer produces enough insulin to control the amount of glucose in the blood and how it's transported to cells for energy use. While 7.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites suffer from the disease, 13.2 percent of Hispanics and 12.9 percent of non-Hispanic blacks are diagnosed.

The OMH says knowing the risk factors for the disease is a key in preventing it. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Family history of the disease
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Sedentary or inactive lifestyle
  • High blood pressure
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Increasing age
  • History of gestational diabetes (diabetes when pregnant)

The early signs of type 2 diabetes can be easy to miss and easy to chalk up to other problems like a passing virus or the effects of stress. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Vomiting and stomach pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
  • Blurred vision

Remedying health disparities in minority communities begins with educating the members of those communities on their risks and how they can work to prevent diabetes. Currently, diabetes affects 26 million Americans and about 79 million more are at risk of developing it. With the potential to cause kidney disease, stroke, amputation, and even death-a focused and collaborative prevention campaign is crucial.

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