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Diabetes and the Latino community: Don’t be one of the ‘1 in 2’



The Latino community enjoys many delicious, traditional foods — such as tostones, enchiladas and white rice. But unfortunately, a diet heavy in foods that are high in fat and calories can lead to a number of health issues, including type 2 diabetes.

R. Nizar Kifaieh, CEO, Hudson Regional Hospital

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 50 percent of the Latino-American population is expected to develop type 2 diabetes, which is higher than the U.S. national average of 40 percent. Not only are Latinos more likely to develop the disease at a younger age, but complications from type 2 diabetes hit that population harder, leading to higher rates of kidney failure and diabetes-related vision loss and blindness.

Hudson Regional Hospital, committed to making an impact on the communities that it serves, works within the Spanish-speaking community to educate about the dangers of type 2 diabetes and how to prevent it, and also offers free screenings. “People in our communities should not have to travel into Manhattan to obtain the benefits provided by cutting-edge technology and caring physicians,” says Dr. Nizar Kifaieh, Hudson Regional Hospital’s CEO. “Type 2 diabetes can affect anyone, so prevention and screening go a long way in helping our community stay healthy.”

Higher Rates of Type 2 Diabetes Among the Spanish-Speaking Community

According to Dr. Jenny Rose Cam, an endocrinologist at Hudson Regional Hospital, more than 12% of New Jersey’s Latino population has diabetes, which she attributes to an unhealthy lifestyle characterized by poor nutrition habits and inactivity.

While Latinos have a genetic disposition for developing type 2 diabetes, a diet high in fats and calories and higher rates of obesity exacerbate the situation, according to the CDC.

“We love great food but sometimes, all that great food is not the best for us,” says Sabina Sanchez, patient representative and community outreach coordinator for Hudson Regional Hospital. Sanchez, whose father is Cuban, speaks from experience: Sanchez says she’s seen friends and family members struggle with health issues brought on by a diet heavy in fried and fatty foods.

The Latino population also has a higher rate of obesity and tends to be less physically active.

“It’s definitely a ravaging disease if you don’t take care of yourself,” says Sanchez, who notes that she watched her grandmother, due to diabetes complications, give herself injections three times a day and die at a young age.

Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest-growing chronic diseases worldwide. Without proper treatment, diabetes can lead to serious medical complications such as eye, kidney and heart disease. If you have type 2 diabetes, you can avoid or significantly reduce the risk of developing complications by controlling your glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. And, if you have prediabetes, studies say there are ways to significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Cam describes three things someone concerned about developing diabetes can do to help prevent the disease:

  1. Embrace a healthy diet: “Maintaining a healthy weight is important,” says Dr. Cam, “and eating a diet low in fat and eating smaller portion sizes helps manage blood glucose levels.”
  2. Get moving: “You don’t need to go to an expensive gym,” Dr. Cam says, “but just going on brisk walks, taking the stairs or maybe even doing some Zumba dancing at home.” In fact, the American Heart Association recommends about 30 minutes of activity a day, five days a week to improve overall cardiovascular health.
  3. Lower stress levels: “High stress can trigger higher sugar levels,” Dr. Cam says, and according to one study, the Latino population reported the highest stress levels. Those respondents said the most common methods for coping with stress were listening to music and prayer.

To serve the Latino community, which makes up almost 43 percent of Hudson County’s population, Hudson Regional Hospital has a bilingual staff, offers bilingual health information and offers several complimentary health screening every month.

How Hudson Regional Hospital Can Help

Latinos make up almost 43 percent of Hudson County’s population, according to the U.S. Census, and Hudson Regional Hospital is committed to serving this community.

“I’ve seen a big influx of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, South Americans, Dominicans and Mexicans in the 34 years that I’ve worked for the hospital,” Sanchez says.

“To serve this community, Hudson Regional Hospital has a bilingual staff and offers bilingual health information to help the Spanish-speaking community feel comfortable,” Sanchez says.

“There are a number of complimentary health screenings each month — sometimes in conjunction with organizations such as Save Latin America — that provide underinsured or uninsured community members some basic numbers,” says Sanchez, who runs these screening programs with a team of nurses. “Testing includes glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Hudson Regional Hospital also provides different examination and treatment options that can be used for dealing with diabetes.”

Patients referred for inpatient care work with diabetic nurse educators before discharge to receive dietary counseling and insulin guidance, Cam says.

Hudson Regional Hospital offers preventive services and others, both on an inpatient and outpatient basis. Patients can inquire about these services or schedule appointments by contacting the hospital directly by calling (201) 392-3100, or emailing

 —Amy Byrnes

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55 Meadowlands Parkway
Secaucus, NJ 07094