Here are some of the facts about African Americans and diabetes:
- Over 2.2 million African Americans have diabetes; 1.5 million have been diagnosed and 730,000 have not yet been diagnosed.
- There are 4 times as many African Americans diagnosed with diabetes today as there were in 1968.
- For every 6 white Americans who have diabetes, 10 African Americans have the disease.
- Among African Americans 20 years and older, the prevalence of diabetes is 8.2 percent compared with 4.8 percent among non-Latino whites.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all cases among African Americans, while type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all cases. In every age group the prevalence of diabetes is higher among African-American women than among African-American men. Among African Americans 20 years or older, 11.8 percent of women and 8.5 percent of men have diabetes. Nearly one out of three African-American women ages 65 to 74 years has diabetes.
Diabetes is particularly common among middle-aged and older African-American adults. The proportion of the African-American population that has diabetes rises from less than 1 percent for those younger than 20 years old to as high as 32 percent for women ages 65 to 74 years old. 28 percent of women and 19 percent of men ages 50 and older have diabetes. In just 12 years, national health surveys show that diabetes' prevalence for African Americans ages 40 to 74 has doubled from 8.9 percent in 1976-1980 to 18.2 percent in 1988-1994. In the 1988-1994 National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES III), 11.2 percent of whites ages 40 to 74 years had diabetes compared with 18.2 percent of blacks.
Death rates for people with diabetes are 27 percent higher for blacks compared with whites. Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death for those ages 45 years or older.
One of the problems for African Americans and diabetes is that they are more likely to develop diabetes complications and experience greater disability from the complications than whites. The frequency of diabetic retinopathy is 40 to 50 percent higher in African Americans than in white Americans. African Americans with diabetes experience kidney failure (also called end-stage renal disease) about four times more often than diabetic white Americans. In 1995, there were 27,258 new cases of kidney failure attributed to diabetes in black Americans. African Americans are much more likely to undergo a lower-extremity amputation than white or Latinos with diabetes. In 1994, there were 13,000 amputations among black people with diabetes, involving 155,000 days in the hospital.
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Like many of us who live near major cities, I've been to a few ADA Diabetes Expos — my first in November, 2003, just over a year after diagnosis. The Expo took up a large part of New York City's Javits Center; most of the major meter, insulin, pump, and pill manufacturers were there; there were enough food vendors (with free samples!)...