THE BLOG
05/12/2015 10:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Differences in Hispanic Health

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Hispanics are 50 percent more likely to die from diabetes or liver disease than whites.

Hispanics are more likely to have uncontrolled high blood pressure than whites.

Hispanics have more obesity and diabetes than whites.

The largest racial or ethnic minority group in the United States, Hispanics' health differs from non-Hispanic Americans. And health issues vary greatly among Hispanics by country of origin.

This month, CDC is reporting on health issues that face Hispanics and the steps we can all take to lead longer and healthier lives.

There's an expression in public health known as the "Hispanic paradox." Hispanics appear to live, on average, about two years longer than non-Hispanic white Americans, despite having some greater risks for ill-health.

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and the lower smoking rates among Hispanics overall likely is a major cause of the lower overall death rates seen in Hispanics.

The word "Hispanic" describes people from many different countries and cultures, some born in the United States, some born elsewhere. Our study showed that country of origin can make a big difference in whether someone smokes or is at increased risk of dying from liver disease.

Puerto Rican and Cuban men are more likely to smoke than men from other Hispanic subgroups.

Compared with U.S.-born Hispanics, foreign-born Hispanics have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, hypertension and obesity, but are more likely to have high total cholesterol.

But racial or ethnic group does not have to determine health.

There are three important things Hispanics can do to improve their health by addressing the leading causes of illness (cancer and heart disease) and those which disproportionately affect Hispanics (obesity, diabetes and heart disease).

First, don't smoke. Tobacco is public health' enemy number one. It's not only that tobacco can kill you, it also causes a lot of suffering. To prevent suffering and early death, stop smoking.

Second, be active. Just walking briskly for 10 minutes, three times a day, five days a week, can make a big difference in your health. Or dance. Or take a walk with your dog. Do anything that you like doing and that you will continue doing every day for months and years. Even if you don't lose an ounce of weight, you will healthier and feel much better.

Third, limit alcohol consumption. Even though, in general, compared with whites, a smaller percentage of Hispanics drink, Hispanics who drink are sometimes more likely to drink too much; this is known as binge drinking. Men should never drink more than four alcohol drinks at one occasion, and women should never drink more than three.

If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, stay on medicine and work with your doctors and health care team to make sure your numbers get into control and stay there.

Eligible Hispanics can sign up for health insurance and gain access to essential preventive medical care such as flu shots and counseling to quit smoking.

Doctors can work with their patients in the language they prefer and work with promotores de salud to educate and link patients to free or low-cost services.

The key is to get started now.