I live in the fattest part of the country.
No really, a Gallup poll recently declared the Rio Grande Valley (Texas) as the most obese Metropolitan area in the United States of America, with nearly 40 percent of its residents classified as obese.
You’ve probably heard and read plenty about the obesity epidemic in the United States, the country where even the majority of household pets are overweight. You probably also know that obesity leads to high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and even a lighter wallet.
But, hopefully you are also aware that obesity, even moderate obesity, dramatically increases the risk of type II diabetes. If this alone isn’t enough to sound an alarm in your head, consider that Latinos are 1.6 times more likely to die of diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.
Diabetes is often broken up into two types: type I and type II. Type I diabetes can occur at any age, but it most often gets diagnosed in children, adolescents, and young adults. It is estimated that type I diabetes accounts for 10-15 percent of diabetes cases.
Type II diabetes is the much more common form of diabetes. However, unlike type I diabetes, type II diabetes is preventable. Although family history and genes play a significant role in developing diabetes, low activity level, poor diet, and excess weight around the waist also increase the risk.
If not treated properly, diabetes can lead to a bevy of health issues, including but not limited to:
- Eye problems which could lead to blindness
- Foot and skin infections that could lead to amputation of a foot or leg
- Heart disease
- Nerve damage
- Kidney problems
Aside from knowing the symptoms of both types of diabetes (which may often go undiagnosed), you should visit your health care provider for regular screenings.
Unfortunately, it’s not hard to see why Latinos are at such a high risk of developing diabetes. High poverty levels, lack of access to health care, and even just a general lack of education on the disease all play a role. (The last two links show a disturbing relationship: one in four Latinos lives below the poverty level…and one in four Latinos lacks a usual health care provider).
And of course, there’s the food. Barbacoa, carne guisada, menudo, and greasy tacos are all staples of the South Texas diet (and are also readily available at the corner gas station). Think of some of your favorite comida típica, and chances are they may be UNhealthy food options.
Not too much longer after I read about my hometown’s obesity problem, I read that 25 percent of people in the Rio Grande Valley are diabetic. Unfortunately, I wasn’t shocked (by comparison, 11.8 percent of Latinos and 8.3 percent of the U.S. population are currently diagnosed as such).
You may dismiss this as just another piece on Latinos and diabetes, and that’s fine. But, a little reminder on a serious problem affecting our community couldn’t hurt. In fact, it could (hopefully) change a life (or lives) for the better.