Latinos are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with obesity and diabetes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Being overweight and obese is when your weight is greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. Obesity has been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems, such as diabetes and hypertension. Diabetes is a disease in which there are high levels of sugar in the blood. The consequences of diabetes are kidney disease and kidney failure, heart disease, loss of vision, nerve disorders and even death. Obesity and diabetes are striking an ever-growing number of adults and are now beginning to show up in our teenagers and children, especially in Latinos.
Studies indicate that, “Because of the growth in childhood obesity, it is projected that half of Latino newborns will develop diabetes in their lifetimes” (Narayan).
The good news is that you have the power to prevent obesity and diabetes. As a program coordinator for the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a national research study, I work with clients that are “pre-diabetic/borderline diabetic.” DPP has found that participants who lost a modest amount of weight through dietary changes and increased physical activity sharply reduced their chances of developing diabetes.
Take these simple steps to put your health first in order to reduce your risk of obesity and diabetes:
Keep your weight under control
Living a balanced lifestyle that involves healthy eating and physical activity will help you maintain a healthy weight. Studies show that if you lose 5-10 pounds you can prevent or even delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Being overweight or obese and being Latino are risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.
Getting at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity will lower your risk of getting diabetes. Being physically active will help you manage your weight and lower your blood sugar. The best way to ensure that you get an adequate amount of physical activity a week is to do something active that you enjoy. A few examples of physical activity are: walking, dancing, bike riding, swimming, jogging, and participating in sports. Involve your family and friends to help them be healthy too.
Healthy eating is a way of life. Limit your trips to fast food restaurants and limit your intake of highly processed foods, while focusing on eating as close to nature as possible. This means replacing highly processed foods with more natural and whole foods, such as: fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, lean meats, poultry and fish.
Stay away from smoking
Smoking will increase your risk of various diabetes complications, such as heart attack, stroke, nerve damage and kidney disease. In fact, smokers who have diabetes are three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than are nonsmokers who have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Take steps today to make your health, and the health of your family a priority.
By Monica Mireles
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Narayan KMV, Boyle JP, Thompson TJ, Sorensen SW and Williamson DF (2003). Lifetime risk for diabetes mellitus in the United States. JAMA. 290(14):1884- 1890.
American Diabetes Association