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Heart disease and diabetes are ravaging Hispanic communities

More than 30 million Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes. And millions more have elevated blood sugar levels, so they’re at high risk of developing the disease. Our Hispanic population is particularly vulnerable. They are 66 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic Caucasians.  

These statistics are alarming. Diabetes is a killer, and something must be done about it. Approximately 80,000 Americans die from the disease each year. And the true toll is even higher, because diabetes can lead to heart disease, which claims more than 600,000 American lives annually. Hispanic Americans are 50 percent more likely to die from diabetes than non-Hispanic Caucasians. 

It’s crucial that local government and civic institutions help people prevent, better diagnose and manage these two costly chronic conditions. 

Diabetes is ravaging Hispanic communities nationwide. The number of diagnoses quadrupled between 1988 and 2014. The condition now costs the United States $245 billion per year, according to the American Diabetes Association.

The disease is so costly, in part, because it can significantly impact the heart health of people living with diabetes. People living with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease.  In fact, 25 percent of the annual medical costs of those with diabetes are attributed to cardiovascular complications. 

Further, half of the people living with diabetes don’t even realize they’re at heightened risk of heart disease. So they don’t engage in the preventative actions, such as exercising regularly and keeping their blood pressure under control, that could keep their hearts healthy. 

Far too many people with diabetes don’t visit the doctor regularly, so they’re less likely to receive good diet advice and proper prescriptions. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report, Hispanics are the least likely racial or ethnic group to see a medical provider. Nearly half reported that they hadn’t visited a doctor in the past year.  

Our Hispanic population in the U.S. is also 35 percent more likely to be “inactive” than non-Hispanic Caucasians. And more than seven in ten Latino adults are overweight or obese.  

Educating people about the risks of diabetes and heart disease — and raising awareness of preventative measures — would help curb these twin epidemics. Preventing just one-third of diabetes diagnoses would save the healthcare system $74 billion.  

Fortunately, researchers are working to develop new and improved medicines and treatments which also would save lives and healthcare dollars. One study found that every dollar spent on diabetes medications prevents $7 of spending on additional care.  

Diabetes is devastating our community. But with greater awareness of the value of simple lifestyle changes and a continued commitment to treatment innovations, communities can make much needed progress to curb these two costly chronic diseases and save lives.

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Written By

Joshua D. Lenchus, DO, RPh, FACP, SFHM is President of the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association. This guest column originally ran in the Orlando Sentinel.

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