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Hispanic Americans add spice to the melting pot that is America. Representing 12.5 percent of the US population, Hispanic Americans are the second largest minority group in the US and the fastest growing. Whether from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South America, Central America or another Spanish-speaking country, the Hispanic American culture enriches the US with a special blend of food, fashion, music, movies and literature.
In addition to sharing language and a rich culture, Hispanic Americans from around the globe have a tendency to develop certain health issues. In general, Hispanic Americans may be at a higher risk for developing certain illnesses. This could be because Hispanic Americans may not have health insurance or get preventative care, and there are language or cultural barriers.
Even within the entire Hispanic American community, there are regional health risk differences. For example, Mexican Americans have a higher rate of diabetes, while Puerto Rican Americans are more likely to have asthma, HIV/AIDS and a higher percentage of infant deaths. To help lower the risk of getting chronic kidney disease (CKD), let’s take a look at what the risks are and how to prevent them.
Hispanic Americans should become more aware of diabetes and chronic kidney disease. A recent study by the American Heart Association stated that the risk for a Hispanic American adult to develop type 2 diabetes is nearly twice as high as a non-Hispanic white American adult.
After age 50, diabetes is even more of a threat. In 2000, diabetes was the third cause of death for Hispanics aged 55 to 74. Unfortunately, one in three Hispanic Americans with diabetes doesn’t know they have the disease. Because diabetes is the number one cause of chronic kidney disease, and can lead to other serious health problems, everyone should be tested.
An inactive lifestyle may increase the risk for developing high blood pressure and obesity, both of which may lead to diabetes, chronic kidney disease and other illnesses. One study showed that 65 percent of Mexican American men and 74 percent of Mexican American women got little or no leisure-time physical activity. In another study, 52 percent of Hispanic Americans with high blood pressure were taking no blood pressure medication. Teaching the importance of more activity, better diet and regular doctor visits may help lower the occurrence of these illnesses.
Chronic kidney disease is a serious health problem for Hispanic Americans. Eleven percent of all new CKD patients are Hispanic Americans. The top four causes of CKD are diabetes (primarily, type 2 or adult onset), high blood pressure, glomerulonephritis (kidney diseases caused by inflammation of the kidney) and polycystic kidney disease (an inherited condition). In Hispanic Americans, AIDS is a also a major cause of CKD. Although, Hispanic Americans make up 13 percent of the US population, they account for 20 percent of those diagnosed with AIDS. More information about the causes of HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it, such as using condoms, may help lower this number.
While Hispanic Americans are at greater risk for certain diseases, such as kidney disease, Mexican Americans, in particular, who are diagnosed with kidney failure do better on dialysis than many others. One report stated that Mexican Americans lived longer on kidney dialysis than non-Hispanic white Americans.
Also, all Hispanic American cultures have a lower than average rate of stroke, heart attack and the top forms of cancer.
Focusing on healthy habits—especially ones that lower the risk of diabetes and AIDS—may lead to fewer cases of chronic kidney disease in the Hispanic American population. Visiting a doctor on a regular basis and asking for diabetes, blood pressure and kidney function tests may help find health problems early, allowing time to help prevent or delay chronic kidney disease.
If you would like to see a doctor who specializes in the care of kidneys, called a nephrologist, you can use DaVita's Find a kidney doctor tool to locate a nephrologist in your area.
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