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"I thought I was too busy to take care of my type 2 diabetes"

Antonio is a 57-year-old Latino who has had type 2 diabetes for 10 years. Unfortunately, he has not taken proper care of himself, because he works so much. After his health care provider sends him for a heart scan, Antonio learns he is at risk for a heart attack or kidney failure.



Antonio López took pride in his ability to work hard and provide for his family. He had a good job as a bricklayer. With construction booming everywhere in Southern California, he could always find a job. Sometimes the hours were long, and he had to work overtime, but Antonio was glad that his children could enjoy things he didn’t have when he was growing up.



Although he felt well, Antonio had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes ten years ago, when he was 47. At first he worried that he was going to have to take insulin shots or get his leg amputated, like others he knew with diabetes. His health care provider explained that as long as Antonio took his medication and managed his diabetes well, he could stay healthy and avoid complications.


At first Antonio was on board with following all the instructions. But after a while, he found it difficult to keep up with tracking his food, getting exercise after a long day, and taking time off work for doctor visits and pharmacy refills. He really missed his favorite foods, so he often just bought lunch from a food truck instead of eating what his wife packed.


What Antonio didn’t know was that 50% of Latinos who live in the U.S. will develop type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease that has life-threatening complications if not constantly controlled. Latinos are also 50% more likely to die from one of these complications that white people are.



Fortunately, Antonio’s health care provider understood Antonio’s challenge: He was expected to work and help his extended family, even if it meant putting his own health at risk. As a male, he was taught he didn’t have time for things like seeing a doctor or exercising.



Suspecting that 10 years of poorly-managed type 2 diabetes might have caused cardiovascular disease (CVD), the provider scheduled a CT heart scan for Antonio at a convenient time. It was important to find out if the blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to the heart were damaged or blocked. Diabetes is a huge risk factor for CVD, along with obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and smoking. About 80% of Latino men and 71% of Latino women have at least one major CVD risk. Antonio had diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels.



Getting the heart scan was easy. Besides checking the heart for blocked blood vessels, the CT machine took images Antonio’s lungs, bones, liver, and other body structures. The results were analyzed using Artificial Intelligence, comparing his results to thousands of others before sending a report to Antonio’s provider.



After the provider read the results, they called Antonio to come in as soon as possible. Antonio brought his wife to the appointment, so she could listen, too. The provider showed them the scan that indicated all three of Antonio’s blood vessels were narrowed by calcium and plaque. Antonio had CVD.


The provider explained that if the heart’s blood vessels were narrowed, so were others in Antonio’s body, especially in the kidneys. warned them that about two-thirds of Latino patients with CVD die from a complication like a heart attack or kidney failure.



Antonio’s wife stepped in to assure the health care provider that she would make sure Antonio adhered to all treatments. She took careful notes as the provider explained that Antonio would start on several new medications. He also needed to commit to a healthy diet and intense exercise. She asked about classes they could take to learn more.



Thanks to a heart scan, Antonio is able to understand the need for aggressive control of his diabetes and CVD. He and his wife want to be able to spend time with their grandchildren for years to come. With his family’s support, Antonio can make that happen.


REFERENCES

  1. Hispanic/Latino Americans and Type 2 Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/hispanic-diabetes.html

  2. Bauer M. Why Are Hispanics at an Increased Risk for Type 2 Diabetes? Medically reviewed on 7 Nov 2017. Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/type-2-diabetes/living-with/why-hispanics-are-higher-risk-type-2-diabetes/

  3. Aguavo-Mazzucato C et al. Understanding the growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the Hispanic population living in the United States. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6953173/#

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