Health expo targets diabetes, high-risk Latino population

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DENVER -- Diabetes is a disease that can lead to heart attacks, stroke and even death, and it afflicts 316,000 Coloradans.

And many people who have Type-2 diabetes don't even know they have it, and 79 million of us are at risk of developing it.

That's the message from the American Diabetes Association at a health expo Saturday at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

This year, the ADA is also targeting the Latino community, which is at higher risk for developing the disease. One in three Latinos are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

"I was a little bit nervous," says Ana Demarco of Wheat Ridge.

She just got her results from a blood sugar test. If it's too high, she may have diabetes. The mother of two is certainly at risk.

"I became diabetic during the pregnancy. After the pregnancy I was OK, but my doctor told me 'Now you are going to be more likely to be diabetic later in life,'" she says.

Her parents are also diabetic and her father recently had three toes amputated.

Blood sugar levels between 100 and 126 mg/dl are considered pre-diabetic, something Ana learned when her blood sugar level test score was 120 mg/dl.

Patients whose levels test higher than 126 mg/dl twice are considered diabetic.

"I feel sad. It's not good news," says Raul Chavez of Denver. "It's not good."

Two years ago, he got his diabetic diagnosis, but he's doing better since making lifestyle changes.

"I lost maybe 20 pounds on the bicycle," he says. "Eating healthy … I don't smoke. I don't do drugs."

Obesity contributes to diabetes, which is especially concerning among Latinos. Nearly 41 percent of Hispanic adults in Colorado are overweight and 25 percent are obese.

Among Hispanic children, 21 percent are overweight. Studies show 96 percent spend at least two hours a day in front of a computer or TV.

"We have tacos, tortillas, enchiladas, and we don't know how to eat in portions. We don't understand carbs. Add that to not exercising … exercising not being a part of our life. That kills us," says Julissa Soto with ADA’s Por Tu Familia program.

The program teaches Latinos about the importance of exercise and eating right. Both can stop diabetes.

"You can prevent diabetes from happening. The best way to do that is to live a healthy lifestyle, lose weight, eat healthy and exercise a lot," says Soto.

About 4,000 Latinos took advantage of the free health screenings, and each got a simple message that's often harder to put into practice.

"Let's get healthy. Let's get moving. Let's stop diabetes," says Soto.

The Por Tu Familia program offers free boot camps and zumba classes throughout metro Denver.

Click here for more information or call 720-855-1102.