Desert Foods for Healthy Living

Prevalence of Diabetes


Over the last four decades, diabetes has been a major public health issue in the United States with around 9% of the population in Arizona being diagnosed with the disease. Diabetes affects some populations more than others, particularly Native American and Latino communities. According to a recent report by the Society for Public Health Education, Native American populations in Arizona were found to have a 245% greater than average risk of diabetes with 33% of the native population in the state having received treatment for the disease. This is the highest Native American rate in the country. The prevalence among Hispanic populations is less than Native Americans, but is still higher than the general population, 12% of the population (Society for Public Health Education 2012). Rates for other ethnic groups are also on the rise.

This disease takes a devastating toll not only on physical well being, but also on the emotional, spiritual, and cultural health of people affected as well as their families and communities. Diabetes can lead to death and has many debilitating side effects, such as obesity, kidney and pancreas failure, circulation problems and loss of limbs, heart disease and eye problems, which can result in blindness.

The good news is that diabetes is a disease that can be managed, prevented, and in some cases reversed with changes to diet and exercise. One of the major ways to treat or prevent diabetes is incorporation of desert foods such as nopales, tepary beans, and mesquite. Being from a population with a high susceptibility to diabetes is not a guarantee of diagnosis. It can be prevented.

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