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Your diabetes risk: Age, culture, family history matters

Diabetes doesn’t discriminate — but it does strike certain communities at a higher rate.

While getting older or having close relatives with the condition put you at higher risk, ethnicity plays a role as well. Members of certain minority groups have a higher rate of diabetes than non-Hispanic white people and are generally between two and four times more likely to die from it. Risks are higher for the following groups:

Native Americans and Alaskan Natives — The rate of diabetes incidence for this group is 16 percent compared to 7.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites, with Pima Indians in Arizona having the highest rate of diabetes in the world at 50 percent. Native Americans who are at greater risk of death from diabetes complications, are six times more likely to contract end-stage kidney disease and four times more likely to require limb amputation.

Non-Hispanic African Americans — Diabetes occurs in 13.2 percent of the non-Hispanic black population and is 2.2 times more likely to cause death in African Americans than in non-Hispanic whites. The rate of end-stage kidney disease is 2.7 times higher for black men.

Hispanics — Diabetes occurs in 12.8 percent of Hispanics, who are 1.6 times more likely to have end-stage kidney disease and 1.5 times more likely to die from diabetes.

Asian Americans — The overall rate of diabetes among members of the Asian-American community is 9 percent, with the highest rate for Indians (13 percent) and Filipinos (11.3 percent) and the lowest for Chinese (4.4 percent).

Although researchers think these increased risks are due to a combination of genetics, reduced health care access and cultural, exercise and diet habits, they haven’t yet identified any specific genes responsible for the difference.

Reduce your risk

If you’re descended from one of these groups and are either overweight or over age 45, you could ask your doctor to test you for diabetes. This involves taking a fasting blood test and/or drinking a sugar solution to see how your body responds. Even if your blood sugar levels are normal now, doctors recommend the following prevention strategies — especially if your heritage puts you at greater risk.

Maintain a healthy body weight — If you’re overweight, losing just 5-7% of your body weight can cut your risk of diabetes in half.

Get active — Movement matters, so turn off the TV and take a brisk 30-minute walk most days of the week.

Eat well — You don’t have to give up everything you enjoy. Just adapt recipes and make choices that focus more on vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains and unsaturated fats and less on processed foods and meats, packaged baked goods, foods with refined flour or added sugar, and sugary or sugar-substitute drinks.

Take charge of your health — If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, be sure to go to the doctor to have your cholesterol, blood pressure, vision and other important health indicators checked out since diabetes often goes hand in hand with other conditions. And tell your doctor if you’ve been feeling down lately since depression can reduce motivation to exercise and eat healthy.

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The information included in this communication is provided for information purposes only and it is not intended to constitute professional advice or replace consultation with a qualified medical practitioner.

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