How Ethnicity Changes Your Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a health condition that is becoming increasingly common across the globe. According to studies, more than 2.8% of the world’s population is currently living with diabetes, out of which Type 2 Diabetes accounts for over 90% of all cases.

In United States, the figures are even more alarming; over 23.1 million diabetic Americans, approximately 95% have Type 2 Diabetes. In 2015, diabetes was also the seventh leading cause of death in the country, according to the American Diabetes Association. Multiple factors contribute to the risk of development of Type 2 Diabetes, one of which is ethnicity.

This article will discuss the impact of ethnicity on the development of Type 2 Diabetes and which steps can be taken to minimize it’s possibility.

AA woman holding glass of water- type 2 diabetes

Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes itself is a progressive medical condition where blood sugar levels are elevated.  Type 2 Diabetes is a form of this condition, in which the patient develops a resistance to insulin and may also eventually lose its ability to produce it. Once the body becomes insulin resistant, pancreas begin to generate greater amounts of insulin to counter the imbalance. This overproduction of insulin wears out the cells responsible for its development.

As Type 2 Diabetes typically develops at the age of 35 or above, it is also known as adult onset diabetes. However, the condition has also been diagnosed in children and young adults as well, which indicates it can occur at any age. Some common symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes include fatigue, increased urination, dry mouth and increased thirst, blurred vision and weight gain.

The Role of Ethnicity in Type 2 Diabetes

Recent studies suggest a strong correlation between prevalence and progression of Type 2 Diabetes and ethnic groups. Figures from the National Diabetes Statistics Report also support this idea, as American Indians/Alaska Natives have the highest prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in the country (15.1%). The rate of diagnosed diabetes in Non-Hispanic blacks and people of Hispanic ethnicities is 12.7% and 12.1% respectively

While the reasons behind the greater risk of Type 2 Diabetes in certain ethnic groups still isn’t clear, lifestyle and genetics seems to be among the key aspects leading to this disparity in diabetes diagnosis between various ethnicities. Some lifestyle trends increasingly prevalent in certain ethnic groups that lead to the development of Type 2 Diabetes are as follows:

1.     Lack of physical activity:

Regular leisure time and physical movement can minimize the risk of progression of impaired glucose tolerance to Type 2 Diabetes by 58%, according to studies. This validates the importance of physical activities in Type 2 Diabetes prevention. The U.S. Behavioral Risk Factor System indicates relatively lower levels of physical activity in African Americans and Hispanics, as compared to white Americans.

2.     Eating Habits:

Healthy dietary patterns also play a vital role in mitigating the possibility of Type 2 Diabetes. Diets based heavily on red meat with lack of green leafy vegetables are associated with an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

Studies indicate that Americans have a greater consumption of diets rich in grains and vegetables as compared to African Americans, which in turn increases their Healthy Eating Index and reduces the possibility of Type 2 Diabetes.

3.     Obesity:

Two-thirds of the American population is currently obese, out of which 48.1% are non-Hispanic Blacks. As excess weight and obesity contributes to the development of Type 2 Diabetes, such minorities are at a higher risk of this medical condition.

What can I do?

Risk factors of Type 2 Diabetes are widely prevalent in certain ethnic groups. However, association with a certain ethnic group doesn’t necessarily mean you’re destined to develop the condition.

By understanding contributing factors, early signs and symptoms and management techniques of the disease, Type 2 Diabetes can be battled with ease.

AA couple - type 2 diabetes

For more updates regarding common medical conditions affecting minorities, get in touch with Health Power for Minorities. The mission of this platform is to empower minorities and multicultural populations across the country by providing an open platform for discussion and awareness of critical health issues.

Black hands holding an apple

Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!

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