Why Do African-Americans Have an Increased Risk of Diabetes?

Health Professional

As we discussed last week, diabetes in black adults is more prevalent than among other groups of people. But, why is this?

Well, there are certain risk factors which will increase your chance of developing type 2 diabetes if you are African-American. These are:

Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT)

As African-American men get older, they're said to develop IGT at around the same rate as white American men and women. But, African-American women seem to convert more quickly from IGT to diabetes.


Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes in any group of individuals, but rates of obesity tend to be much higher in African-Americans who have diabetes, compared to those who don't.

Studies also indicate where you carry your weight is important. African-Americans do tend to have higher rates of upper body obesity, and this increases the risk of getting type 2 diabetes more so than if weight is carried below the waist.

Inherited Traits

Research indicates African-Americans have inherited a gene from their ancestors, which may make weight control difficult. There is also a genetic tendency towards high blood pressure, and so both of these can be problematic in terms of diabetes.

Physical Activity

Being physically inactivity is a strong predictor of type 2 diabetes.

What can African-Americans do to reduce their risk of diabetes?

If you have diabetes, you are much more likely to have heart disease, or suffer from a heart attack or stroke, therefore it really is important that you look after your health, making the necessary lifestyle changes and taking any medication prescribed by your doctor.

To prevent health problems here are a few guidelines to help you manage your ABCs:

Remember, the closer your numbers are to the set targets, the better your chance will be of preventing heart disease and cutting your risk of diabetic complications:

A: A1C

Your A1C tells you your average blood glucose levels for the past 2 to 3 months. It is recommended you try to maintain this below 7.

B: Blood Pressure

As we've seen, African-American's tend to have higher blood pressure levels, and this means your heart has to work harder than it should. Try to maintain your blood pressure below 130/80 mmHg.

C: Cholesterol

HDL cholesterol has a protective effect on your heart, while it's thought that too much LDL cholesterol and triglycerides may be harmful.  Suggested targets are:

  • HDL men - above 40 mg/dl
  • HDL women - above 50 mg/dl
  • Triglycerides - below 150 mg/dl
  • LDL - below 100 mg/dl

By controlling these factors it really can make a huge impact on your overall health.  Next week we'll look at some of the lifestyle changes which will help you reach your ABC targets, and help control your risk factors for diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Remember, you can drop me an email with any queries on this subject and I'll try to get back to you ASAP.

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