Today, more than one in three U.S. adults have prediabetes, the precursor to type 2 diabetes. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Hispanic Americans have greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes– more than 50% – and they also are more likely to develop it at a younger age. These communities comprise a diverse group including all races among those of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South and Central American, and other Spanish descent.
Although it can be controlled, and in some cases, it goes into remission, diabetes is a lifelong disease that requires lifestyle changes to control one’s blood sugar levels. Diabetes research shows that the complications are more prevalent for our community, including higher rates of kidney failure and diabetes-related vision loss, or even blindness.
How to manage diabetes
For those with diabetes, a lifestyle shift must be made to control your blood sugar levels. Common choices include a switch to a healthier diet, more exercise, regular checkups and, in some cases, medicine.
It’s never easy to manage diabetes, but for those in our community, there are potentially additional barriers. Some examples include:
Challenges with communication: It isn’t always easy to advocate for your preferences or values in a medical setting. When communication between a patient and their doctor isn’t transparent, the patient might be less likely to follow through with treatment instructions or lifestyle changes.
Cultural differences: In some households, it’s common to put your family’s needs before your own – even health needs. Other families prefer natural or traditional medicines as opposed to the typical diabetes treatment. There are any number of ways that an individual’s culture can affect the way they manage diabetes.
For those who want an extra support system, doctors can share referrals for diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES)services. There are many benefits to working with a DSMES. They can help you improve your blood sugar, control your blood pressure, and lower your cholesterol levels.
What to do if you’re prediabetic
Our community is also at a greater risk for prediabetes, which means that one’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet at the type 2 diabetes level. There aren’t typically additional symptoms, but there are resources available to determine your risk. For example, you can take a prediabetes risk test online (available in English and Spanish).
If you score high on the test, it’s a good idea to confirm your result with a blood sugar test from your doctor. Then, through healthy eating and increased physical activity, you’ll be on the right track to bettering your overall health. Just be sure to consult with your primary care physician prior to implementing any lifestyle changes for diabetes. Establishing good habits and taking control of your health is one of the best ways to improve your well-being and lessen your risk of type 2 diabetes.
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