Populations at Risk: Type 2 Diabetes

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Populations at Risk: Type 2 Diabetes

Kidney Disease
Populations at Risk
Populations at Risk: Type 2 Diabetes
Populations at Risk: Type 2 Diabetes
If you are African-American, Hispanic-American or American Indian, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is higher than that of white Americans.
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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School



Type 2 Diabetes
More than 26 million people in the United States have diabetes. An estimated 7 million who have diabetes don't know it. The number of people with diabetes continues to climb. At the current rate, 1 of 3 adult Americans will have diabetes by the year 2050.
The estimate also leaves out the large number of Americans who have "pre-diabetes." They have mild elevations in blood sugar levels. Many people with pre-diabetes go on to develop diabetes. It is estimated that 54 million people in the United States would qualify as having "pre-diabetes" if every American were tested. That includes about 40% of all Americans over age 40.
Most people with type 2 diabetes find out that they have it in one of two ways. Either they have symptoms and ask a doctor about them or they have a routine blood test that shows high blood sugar levels. Symptoms include excessive thirst and excessive urination.
Diabetes is diagnosed using one of the following blood-testing methods:
  • Two fasting blood-sugar tests that show blood-sugar levels greater than 125 milligrams per deciliter on at least two separate occasions
  • A blood test for glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) of 6.5% or higher
  • An abnormal glucose tolerance test that shows a blood sugar level of 200 milligrams per deciliter or higher


What You May Face
The health problems associated with diabetes can be disabling. They also can threaten your life.
  • Heart disease — This is the leading cause of diabetes-related deaths. Adults with diabetes die of heart disease two to four times more often than adults without diabetes.
  • Stroke — The risk of stroke is two to four times higher among people with diabetes than among those without.
  • Eye problems — Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults 20 to 74 years of age.
  • Kidney failure — Diabetes accounts for about 43% of new cases of kidney failure.
  • Nerve and circulatory damage — More than 60% of lower-limb amputations in the United States not caused by trauma occur among people with diabetes.
Fortunately, many people can prevent type 2 diabetes. Even those with the disease can decrease their risk of these health problems. You can start by exercising regularly, controlling your weight and eating a healthy diet.

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What the Statistics Say

Diabetes Among People Aged 20 and Older, by Race

8.7% of Non-Hispanic white people
13.3% of African-Americans
9.5% of Hispanic-Americans
15.1% of American Indian and Alaska Native populations*
Information from the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders (2005)
*Receiving care from the Indian Health Service


  • African-Americans are 1.8 times as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic white Americans of similar age.
  • The risk of diabetes is higher for African-American women than for black men. About 1 in 4 African-American women older than 55 has diabetes.
  • Hispanic-Americans are almost 1.5 times as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic white Americans of similar age. Mexican Americans and Puerto Rican people are at higher risk than most other Hispanics. Their risk that is about double that of non-Hispanic white people.
  • About 25% to 30% of Hispanic Americans older than 49 have diabetes. Many do not realize they have it.
American Indian
  • Complications from diabetes are a major cause of death and health problems in most American Indian populations.
  • One tribe in Arizona has the highest rate of diabetes in the world. Nearly 50% of the tribe members between the ages of 30 and 64 have diabetes.


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How You Can Lower Your Risk
Exercise regularly. Try to increase the amount of physical activity you get. For example, climb the stairs rather than taking the elevator. Walk to the store instead of driving. Try to get out of your chair often. In addition, work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.
Control your weight. Calculate your body mass index (BMI). If your BMI is less than 25, maintain it. If it is between 25 and 34, decrease the total number of calories you consume and increase your physical activity. If your BMI is greater than 35, talk to your doctor or another health professional. Your doctor can help you start a more structured weight-loss program.
Make better food choices. This starts with limiting your calorie intake to reduce your BMI. Follow the new Healthy Eating Plate to guide you on healthier food choices.
Talk to your doctor about getting tested. A simple blood test can be done to measure your sugar levels. The test may indicate that you have diabetes, even though you don't have symptoms. Or it may show that you have a tendency towards diabetes. This is called "pre-diabetes." If you have "pre-diabetes," it is especially important for you to make lifestyle changes now. This can reduce your risk of diabetes.
If you do not have a doctor or cannot afford to see one, call your local health department or visit your local community health center. Within most cities, there are several neighborhood clinics that will see you even if you can't pay and don't have health insurance. In these clinics, staff members usually come from the community. They are likely to be sensitive to your cultural beliefs and needs (such as the need for a translator, for people who don't speak English).
Educate yourself and your family. Learn more about diabetes. This will give you the knowledge you need to take charge of your health.
Get additional help. Many government and private groups have excellent outreach programs. They include the following:
American Diabetes Association
National Call Center
1701 N. Beauregard St.
Alexandria, VA 22311
Toll-Free: (800) 342-2383
E-Mail: ASKADA@diabetes.org
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
1 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3560
Phone: (301) 654-3327
Toll-Free: (800) 860-8747
E-Mail: ndic@info.niddk.nih.gov
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive
and Kidney Disorders

Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Building 31, Room 9A06
Center Drive, MSC 2560
Bethesda, MD 20892-2560
Phone: (301) 496-3583
Fax: (301) 496-7422
National Diabetes Education Program
A joint program of National Institutes of Health (NIH)
and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
One Diabetes Way
Bethesda, MD 20814-9692
Toll-Free: (800) 438-5383

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Related Information
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diabetes,bmi,blood sugar,blood test,type 2 diabetes,digestive,exercise,heart,kidney,kidney failure,stroke
Last updated June 09, 2014

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