In this blog, we turn our focus to the health of Latinos living in the United States. For those who are new to the U.S. and find themselves adopting new habits, health conditions can be significantly affected. Headlines saying Hispanic and Latino populations have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and other health conditions indicate changes in health can be for the worse.
The Hispanic Community Health Study, the most comprehensive study of Hispanic and Latino health in the United States, has observed high incidences for some health conditions, including hypertension and type 2 diabetes. In the case of diabetes, two thirds of participants acknowledged they were living with the disease, but less than half of them were managing it properly.
As diabetes educators know, food plays a critical role in our health. For people with diabetes (PWD), a healthy diet is one of the pillars for diabetes management. Here are some tips to share with the Hispanic and Latino PWD you work with, especially those who are new to the U.S. and are becoming accustomed to new surroundings and lifestyles.
1) Be mindful of portions
Portion sizes are much larger in the U.S. than in some regions of Latin America. Consider this before ordering your food. Sharing a portion of it with your family and friends is an easy way to make sure you don't eat all of it.
2) Slow down on the fast food
There is a wider variety of fast food in the U.S. than in some Latin American countries. This does not mean that all the restaurant chains only sell junk food, but there are more options and more temptations to try them. For those (read: all) of us who like fast food, use tools that track the nutritional information of your food intake and try not to eat this type of food every day, instead choose specific dates or events to have it.
3) Explore the local markets
A greater variety of natural fruits and vegetables are available at local markets. Finding healthy foods from one’s country of origin might also be easier to find at neighborhood markets.
4) Find your community
You are not alone! Despite the cultural differences, Latino PWD will notice that there are many others with type 1 diabetes in the U.S. Use the Beyond Type 1 application to find others in your area of residence with whom you can create a community and share life experiences. For those with type 2 diabetes, a great place to meet people and exchange experiences is www.estudiabetes.org
5) Educate yourself and others
We need to continue teaching our relatives, friends, acquaintances and communities. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented in some cases; do what you can to work on the risk factors that can be modified—including your diet. Learn to eat healthier, incorporate physical activity into your routine and visit your doctor regularly.
About the authors:
Mila Ferrer started her type 1 diabetes blog in July 2011, five years after her youngest son Jaime was diagnosed with type 1 at three years old. She is one of the most popular bloggers in the United States, Mexico, Latin America, and Spain and she is well known among parents of children living with type 1 diabetes in the Hispanic community through her blog. She has been recognized as a "Leader in Diabetes" by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), and as a leading influential Latina Blogger by LATISM. She enjoys watching her children play baseball, spending time with her husband, and she is a coffee lover.
Mariana Gómez was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the summer of 1985. She is a psychologist and a diabetes educator. In 2008, Mariana started a blog to share her life experience with others. She is a spokesperson for type 1 diabetes in Latin America. Mariana worked with the Mexican Diabetes Federation until 2012. She is the mom of an 11-year-old football player. She lives in Mexico City and she loves unicorns.