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"At Risk" Populations and Diabetes

Diabetes impacts nearly 24 million children and adults in the United States—though one-third don’t know they have it. Another estimated 57 million Americans have pre-diabetes, which means they are at risk of developing diabetes.

Are You at Risk?

Type 2 diabetes is found at alarmingly high rates in racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S., according to Enrique Caballero, MD, director of Joslin’s Latino Diabetes Initiative. Diabetes is much more common among African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders than among Caucasians.

Risk for type 2 diabetes increases with age, particularly after age 45. Being overweight or obese is another major risk factor—particularly if the extra weight is around the waist. Therefore, people younger than 45 years of age can develop type 2 diabetes if they have a strong genetic predisposition and are overweight. A recent study conducted by Dr. Caballero and his team at the Latino Diabetes Initiative at Joslin identified that overweight Hispanic children also have profound abnormalities in their circulation (endothelial dysfunction), which puts them at risk not only for type 2 diabetes, but also for cardiovascular disease.

Other risk factors include: family history of type 2 diabetes, an inactive lifestyle, high levels of fat in the blood, particularly high triglycerides and/or low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, or having had gestational diabetes, or having pre-diabetes.

Having these risk factors does not mean you’ll get diabetes, but it does mean you should be screened for it regularly.

Multicultural Care

Joslin has two clinics staffed by bilingual healthcare providers that offer services and resources for prevention and care: the Latino Clinic and the Asian American Clinic. Joslin also offers African American Services.

Once you know you are at risk, there is a lot you can do to try to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Page last updated: October 15, 2019