People living along the U.S.-Mexico border have higher rates of diabetes

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A new study shows that people living along the U.S.-Mexico border have higher rates of diabetes and are more overweight and obese than national averages in both Mexico and the United States, according to results of a survey of more than 4,000 people in the border area.

The study, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Mexico Secretariat of Heath (SSA), and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), showed that almost 16 percent of border residents suffer from Type 2 diabetes. The national rate in Mexico is 14.9 percent and in the U.S. it is 13.9 percent of the population.

And 74 percent of men and 70 percent of women living along the border are either overweight or obese, according to PAHO’s Deputy Director, Dr. Joxel García, noting that these conditions greatly increase the risk of diabetes.

"We were underestimating the amount of diabetes we have here and the amount of obesity and overweight that we have here. It gives us a reality check," García said. Inadequate diets with too much fat, lack of exercise, and low awareness of the health risks contribute to the problem, he added.

The prevalence study surveyed more than 4,000 people, of whom 88 percent Hispanics, and is the first to deal with the border area as one epidemiological unit. The study included data on prevalence of diabetes, pre-diabetes, overweight, and obesity. Households were surveyed in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and the six Mexican Border States. In addition to interviews, researchers measured body size and blood pressure and took blood tests.

The U.S.-Mexico border region has about 8 million residents along a 2,000-mile long band, and health officials estimate that 1.2 million of those have Type 2 diabetes, with 500,000 on the Mexican side and 700,000 on the U.S. side. About 4.3 million adults in the border region are either overweight or obese.

A joint project is now underway to reduce the impact of diabetes among residents of the border, using health promotion and community participation to educate people on its dangers, in collaboration with federal state and local health agencies and non-government organizations, García said.

The study also showed that 13.9 percent of the population suffered from pre-diabetes, with elevated blood sugar levels that put people at higher risk of developing the disease.

PAHO, established in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and the quality of life of people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.

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