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Diabetes Health Center

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African Americans at Greater Risk of Type 2 Diabetes


Helaine Resnick, PhD, a research fellow in the epidemiology, demography and biometry program at the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, reviewed the study for WebMD. "I absolutely agree with this paper's conclusion that a lot of the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in this population is modifiable," she says.

Resnick says she believes that primary care doctors do not do enough to emphasize the dangers of diabetes. The condition, she says, is like high blood pressure in many ways: "It is not an acute condition and it isn't painful, so both patients and caregivers may not pay much attention to it, particularly when [other medical] conditions that are more acute exist.

"However, as we're seeing the population get much more overweight, and we're also seeing many more people living into their 70s and 80s, I believe we're going to see many more people with the manifestations of diabetes." Identifying the risk factors that can be changed and developing ways to intervene are crucial, she says.

  • A new study shows that African Americans, especially women, are much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than their white counterparts.
  • Most of the difference can be explained by known risk factors, including obesity (among women only), family history of diabetes, fewer years of formal education, and less physical activity.
  • Much of the risk for diabetes among the African American population can be modified with lifestyle changes, but a yet-unknown genetic or environmental factor may also contribute.
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