Diabetes Inflicts a Dangerous Toll on Hispanics in the United States

 - by Charlotte Hodge, R.N., Nurse Practitioner

The numbers speak for themselves

  • 16 million Americans have diabetes. 

  • One out of every 10 Latinos has or will develop diabetes versus a rate of 1 in 20 for the general population.

  • One in four Hispanics over age 45 has diabetes.

  • In California, more than 830,000 Latinos have diabetes, half of them are  unaware that they have the disease.

  • In Riverside and San Bernardino Counties combined, Latinos account for 41% of all people with diabetes in these two counties.

  • Hispanic women who have diabetes show much greater death and complication rates during pregnancy than other women.

  • As the Hispanic population continues to grow, the prevalence of diabetes among Hispanics is expected to reach epidemic proportions.

  • Latinos bear a higher burden of the cost of diabetes because of their risk and prevalence rates.  Due to lack of insurance and medical care, Latinos are diagnosed late in the disease;  the treatment they need is usually for the more costly complication such as blindness, amputations, heart, and kidney disease.

  •  Diabetes is responsible for 1 out of every 7 healthcare dollars spent.

  • The total annual economic impact of diabetes in America is an estimated $132 billion.


Life style changes can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes

Hereditary plays a major role in the development of type 2 diabetes.  The best “Insurance policy” one can have to prevent developing diabetes is to reach and maintaine normal weight and participate in regular exercise.


Obesity—-Critical in Diabetes and Major Problem of Its Own


Obesity is a major risk factor for the development of Type 2 (Adult onset) diabetes. It is also a major cause of illness and death in the United States in its own right.  Overweight now affects more than one out of every three Americans, and its prevalence has increased 30 percent over the past decade alone.  Obesity increasingly affects minorities, with over 60 percent of African American, Mexican American, and Native American women meeting the criteria for obesity. Also, the prevalence of obesity in children and teens is increasing at alarming rates, leading to development of Type 2 diabetes in these younger groups.


Since we understand the relationship between obesity and diabetes, the problems associated with obesity must be more closely examined. The effects of obesity on death rates depend not only on the total amount of fat, but on how the fat is distributed. The fat that accumulates around the waste line is linked to a much higher health risk than fat which is more evenly distributed.


A lack of physical activity along with excessive food intake causes obesity. Obesity is related not only to the risk of Type 2 diabetes but also to an increase in blood pressure and blood fats, which causes early “hardening of the arteries” and coronary heart disease.


Conquering obesity would greatly reduce the number of people with diabetes.

To curb the devastating complications and costs associated with diabetes, it is important that community-based efforts are intensified to increase awareness about blood sugar control and complication prevention.  Through early detection and treatment, exercising regularly, and following a healthy diet, Hispanics with diabetes can prevent and/or delay the serious complications of the disease.




Diabetes is the name for a group of chronic (lifelong) diseases than can be controlled but not cured as yet.  It affects the way the body uses food.  After eating food the body changes sugars, starches, and other foods into a form of sugar called glucose.  The bloodstream carries this glucose to the body cells, where with the help of insulin (a hormone produced in the pancreas) it is changed into quick energy for immediate use or stored for future use.  In diabetes, this normal process is changed causing build up of the sugar in the bloodstream. 


The build up of sugar in the blood stream causes the signs and symptoms of diabetes.  Over time the buildup of sugar in the blood stream affects every system in the body resulting in the long term complications of diabetes. 

  • Diabetes is the #1 cause of blindness in the US.

  • Diabetes is the #1 cause of amputations in non war time conditions.

  • People with diabetes are 2-6 times as likely to have heart attacks and strokes.

  • Diabetes is leading cause of kidney failure.



Signs / Symptoms:

  • Increased Urination

  • Increased Thirst

  • Increased Hunger

  • Blurred Vision

  • Chronic Fatigue

  • Persistent Skin Infection

Risk Factors:

  • Family History of Diabetes

  • Obesity

  • Hispanic / Native American / Black

  • Age 60 + years

  • Pregnancy

  • History of Diabetes  During Pregnancy

  • Birth weight of child over 9 pounds

If you have any of the above signs and symptoms or are in any of the these risk groups, you should be tested for diabetes.

All Latinos at age 45 and older should be tested yearly.

All Latino women should be tested when  pregnancy is first discovered and again between the  24 to 28th week of pregnancy.



Charlotte Hodge RN, NP, CDE, founder and president of Diabetes Solutions, is a Registered Nurse, Nurse Practitioner and Certified Diabetes Educator who has specialized in the field of diabetes for 25 years.  She has designed and provided diabetes education and programming for patients and professionals as well as business models for providers of diabetes care.  She is past president of the Diabetes Teaching Nurses of So. California, a founding Board member and past president of the American Diabetes Association, Inland Empire Chapter where she has served on boards and committees at the state and national levels.  The ADA nominated her as the Diabetes Educator of the Year for the state of California. The Inland Empire ADA has honored her as Volunteer of the Year. While working with Dr. Irving Spratt for 10 years she was instrumental in bringing the California Diabetes Control Program to the Inland Empire and conducting a 5-year clinical trial for Humalin insulin. She was a Regional Director of Operations for Diabetes Treatment Centers of America and the Program Director for the Diabetes Treatment Centers at both Riverside Community Hospital and later at Parkview Community Hospital, Riverside California. Charlotte has written widely for local and national publications. She has traveled extensively as an ambassador for diabetes to China and Mongolia with the People to People Program and also to Honduras and Central Mexico on various medical missions. 

Diabetes Solutions was founded in February 2000 by three Certified Diabetes Educators with an accumulation of 48 years experience in educating and supporting patients with diabetes.  After working 16 years for a large for profit national organization, it became clear that many community hospitals were unable to support the cost of such multi-level programs. The company provides cost-effective support to physicians and hospitals in caring for patients, without incurring the overhead inherent in large corporations.  Diabetes Solutions collaborates with hospitals, payers and physicians who desire to provide education to patients, professionals and the public and teams with community resources in order to work with all populations regardless of a patient’s resources. The programs of Diabetes Solutions are broad based but also reach out to specialized needs, including diabetes and pregnancy, children with diabetes, insulin pump patients, support groups for adults, youth and parents and Spanish speaking individuals. Diabetes Solutions works closely with the American Diabetes Association, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.   

E-Mail them for more information, or call Diabetes Solutions offices at (909) 276-8243.

Return to Text Only Index

Return to Index

Go to Vital Connections Front Page