The FDA is helping prevent the spread of diabetes in women of Latin American ancestry. With nearly 1 million Latinas at risk of developing diabetes, many will not seek preventive care or visit a doctor to get screened for the disease. “About 5.5 million Latinas have elevated fasting plasma glucose, and of those, nearly 4 million weren't told by a healthcare professional that they were at risk for diabetes,” according to a study in the March 2014 edition of Hispanic Health Care International.

Latinas' Rising Risk

Cultural misconceptions and fear about diabetes put Latinas at a high risk for developing long-term diabetes-related complications. According the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), diabetes affects nearly 26 million Americans (8.3 percent of the population). In addition, about 79 million adults (35 percent) are at risk of developing diabetes. According to the study Latinas with Elevated Fasting Plasma Glucose, there’s a significantly higher proportion of undiagnosed diabetes among Mexican-American adults (34.6 percent) than non-Hispanic whites (17.1 percent) and non-Hispanic blacks (15.7 percent).

In many cases, Latinas don’t visit their doctor until symptoms arise or they find themselves in a crisis. The study recommends making tests more convenient to help increase the rate of diabetes detection in Latinas. The idea is to offer testing locations that are more accessible than a doctor's office. Proposals include additional mobile health vans, places of worship, pharmacies, gyms, dental offices and eye clinics.

Minorities and Diabetes Risk

Minorities are at risk for a combination of different health conditions. The Office of Minority Health (OMH) and the FDA are helping to raise awareness to prevent and treat diabetes in minority groups. Ethnic minorities have a high chance of developing diabetes and low diabetes control, which puts them at risk for diabetes complications. The FDA reports that among Hispanics the death rate from diabetes is 50 percent higher than for non-Hispanic whites. "For some minorities, poverty, lack of access to health care, cultural attitudes and behaviors are all barriers to preventing diabetes and having effective diabetes management once diagnosed," says OMH Director Jonca Bull, M.D.

Who Diabetes Affects

Diabetes doesn’t discriminate and everyone is at risk. The National Health Interview Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Census Bureau gives a breakdown of diabetes incidence across different ethnic groups:

17.5 percent of American Indians/Alaska natives

16.3 percent of American Indians/Native Americans

13.2 percent of Hispanics

12.9 percent of non-Hispanic blacks

9.1 percent of Asian Americans

7.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites 18 and older

Knowing your risk level is the first step toward early diagnosis. It’s important to take your health seriously and to visit your doctor every year to ensure you’re not at risk for diabetes and other health conditions.

To learn more about diabetes:
Prediabetes: Tests and Diagnosis
Type 2 Diabetes: Tests and Diagnosis
Dangers of Self-Diagnosis: Let Your Doctors Do Their Job