African Americans and Type 2 Diabetes
Ethnicity and Other Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors
In addition to ethnicity, some of the more well-established risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Sedentary, inactive lifestyles
- Low HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) and/or high triglycerides
- Family history of diabetes
- Age 45 or older
- Prediabetes (higher-than-normal glucose levels, but not yet full-blown diabetes)
- A history of gestational diabetes or having a baby with a birth weight of 9 pounds or more.
Several of these risk factors are more common in African Americans. When a risk factor influences other risk factors as well, things get complicated. For instance, African Americans, particularly females, are more likely to be overweight or obese, which increases the risk for high blood pressure. Both high blood pressure and being overweight or obese increase the risk for type 2 diabetes.
Modifiable risk factors are ones you can change -- things like your weight, diet, and activity level. Nonmodifiable risk factors are "set in stone" and include things like your age, your family history, and your ethnicity. While we certainly shouldn't feel guilty about our nonmodifiable risk factors or let them define us, it's important to identify them in order to help focus our efforts for improved health.
Where to focus your efforts? On your modifiable risk factors! Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels (with medications, if necessary), get active, and lose excess weight.
Why do risk factors matter if you already have type 2 diabetes? The fact that you have type 2 diabetes automatically puts your children at a higher risk. Changing your modifiable risk factors (and, hopefully, theirs, as you lead by example) may help set your kids up for the best possible odds for preventing type 2 diabetes.