Hispanic Health: Diabetes, Liver Disease Top Concerns

U.S. Hispanics have lower deaths than non-Hispanic whites from most of the 10 leading causes of death, with three exceptions. There are more deaths among Hispanics from diabetes and chronic liver disease, and similar numbers of deaths from kidney disease, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC recently featured Hispanic Health as part of its monthly “Vital Signs” series. Hispanics make up are the largest racial/ethnic minority population in the United States, about one in six residents.

South Florida is one of the top three U.S. metro areas with the largest share of Hispanics. The CDC believes that Hispanics can benefit form “leveraging existing programs to improve community health services and access to preventive care.”

Heart disease and cancer in Hispanics are the two leading causes of death, accounting for about two of five deaths, which is about the same for non-Hispanic whites. And the death rate overall among U.S. Hispanics is 24 percent lower than non-Hispanic whites.

Managing Chronic Diseases

However, Hispanics are about 50 percent more likely to die from diabetes or liver disease than non-Hispanic whites. Here are other differences noted by the CDC’s report regarding the health of Hispanics, compared to non-Hispanic whites:

  • Hispanics experience 35 percent less heart disease and 49 percent less cancer;
  • 24 percent more poorly controlled high blood pressure;
  • 23 percent more obesity;
  • 28 percent less colorectal screening.
  • “In South Florida, we know it’s important for Hispanics to manage chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension,” said Tatiana Ivan, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group physician with Baptist Health Primary Care’s Family Medicine Center at West Kendall Baptist Hospital.  “But there needs to be greater awareness of the importance of regularly checking risk factors for heart disease and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise.”

    In the Hispanic community, like in other diverse cultures across the United States, proper nutrition in the form of a balanced diet is often overlooked across generations. Diet high in sugar and unhealthy fats, with not enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are common among Hispanic households, Dr. Ivan said. That mindset needs to change, as is evident in the fact that U.S. Hispanics are 23 percent more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites.

    There has been progress overall. The CDC statistics show that 35 percent of Hispanics are less likely to suffer from heart disease, compared to non-Hispanic whites.

    Large Hispanic households often feature three generations, and the middle generation usually is composed of a couple looking after their kids and their parents. This “sandwich generation” guards the health of others but can ignore their own.

    “The kids and the grandparents sometimes get the healthcare attention, but the whole family needs to be vigilant of healthy habits and regular checkups,” Dr. Ivan said.

    Hispanic Subgroups

    Health risks can vary greatly by Hispanic subgroup, the CDC notes. For example, 66 percent more Puerto Ricans smoke than Mexicans. Smoking overall among Hispanics (14 percent) is less common than among non-Hispanic whites (24 percent). But the smoking rate is higher among Puerto Rican males (26 percent) and Cuban males (22 percent). Overall, about 18 percent of Americans currently smoke cigarettes regularly.

    Risks Vary for U.S.-Born, Foreign-Born Hispanics

    Risks also hinges somewhat on whether you were born in the U.S. or another country. Compared with U.S.-born Hispanics, foreign-born Hispanics have:

  • About half as much heart disease;
  • 48 percent less cancer;
  • 29 percent less high blood pressure;
  • 45 percent more “high total cholesterol.”
  • Social Factors

    The CDC adds that social factors play a big role in Hispanic health. Among Hispanics living in the U.S.:

  • About 1 in 3 has not completed high school;
  • About 1 in 4 lives below the poverty line;
  • About 1 in 3 does not speak English well.
  • Moreover, Hispanics are almost three times as likely to be uninsured as  non-Hispanic whites.

    Steps to Better Health

    Adds the CDC: “Hispanics in the U.S. are, on average, nearly 15 years younger than whites, so steps Hispanics take now to prevent disease can go a long way.” The CDC recommends the following steps for Hispanics, which follows fairly closely steps all Americans can take to improve their health:

  • Talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional about which cancer screening tests to get and how often, especially if you have a family history of cancer. Follow-up on any abnormal results.
  • Make a strong effort to follow proven health tips such as quitting smoking, staying on medicine to control blood pressure and cholesterol, and maintaining a healthy weight by taking at least one brisk 10-minute walk, three times a day, five days a week.
  • Learn about diabetes and how to prevent type 2 diabetes.
  • Eat a healthy diet that is low in salt, low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Healthcare that Cares

    With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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