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Calle Ocho 2013 Report: Hispanics and Diabetes

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It's no secret -- Hispanic culture centers around good food. No matter what their country of origin, traditional dishes are a source of pride and familiarity for most Hispanics. But they carry certain health risks.

The prevalence of diabetes among Hispanics is high, so high that it borders on an epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Controll, lifetime risk estimates for developing diabetes is high for both Hispanic men and women. Hispanic women born in 2000 have a 52.5 percent risk of developing diabetes in their lifetime while Hispanic men have a 45.4 percent risk. That compares, for example, to a 31.2 percent risk for non-Hispanic white females and 26.7 percent risk among non-Hispanic white males.

"Unfortunately, for the Latin community it is hard to adjust for and educate about diabetes because we don't want to give up our traditions," said cookbook author celebrity chef Leticia Moreinos Schwartz, who Sunday stopped at Calle Ocho Street Festival as part of Merck Pharmaceutical's Cuida tu Diabetes, Cuida tu Corazon (Taking Diabetes To Heart). With help from the American Diabetes Association and Jefe's Original Food Truck, Schwartz demonstrated how just a few small measures can make a big difference for those suffering from diabetes.

"We want the Latin community to understand that a diabetes diagnosis is not the start of a life sentence," Schwartz told Short Order after preparing the chicken taco above with sauteed onions, cilantro and tomatillo salsa. "The most important thing is to master portion control. Also, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. When preparing meals, use recipes that do not sacrifice flavor so you can cook with and for your entire family. Do not isolate yourself with special meals."

Schwartz, a native of Rio de Janeiro, has an underlying passion for the topic of type 2 diabetes, which accounts for close to 90 percent of all diabetes cases in the US. She watched her beloved grandfather die from the disease, and wants to help others reduce their risk of serious complications. Chef Leticia emphasized the importance of remembering that each case is unique and one must consult their doctor to work out the best combination of diet change, exercise and medication.

The team's combined efforts continue as Schwartz and Merck travel around the country to help spread the knowledge that can eventually lead to saving someone's life. For more information visit CuidaTuDiabetesCuidaTuCorazon.com to access bilingual resources for people with type 2 diabetes, including tips for living a healthier lifestyle and delicious, diabetes-friendly recipes that the whole family can enjoy.

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