Diabetes affecting Middle Tennessee Hispanics at alarming rate

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN)- Doctors call it a silent killer and in Middle Tennessee, it’s affecting one ethnic group at an alarming rate.

Diabetes is on the rise in the hispanic community and one local doctor is educating patients and helping them control this potentially deadly disease.

Sergio Mezo is just happy he got help when he did.

“My life has changed a lot in the last year my feet use to hurt a lot, they use to be numb, now my feet are better. I used to be very, very tired. I wanted to sleep a lot while I was working,” said Mezo.

Mezo was diagnosed with Type One diabetes at 23 and over the last eight years he’s had a hard time making appointments with his primary care physician.

“I was very sick, waiting in another clinic to be seen and they didn’t have any openings,” said Mezo.

Since he started seeing nurse practitioner Luisa Leal, his diabetes is now under control.

(Photo: WKRN)

“It’s a silent killer. Diabetes falls under the same category as high blood pressure, heart disease and high cholesterol, those are the silent killers,” said Leal.

Mezo is not alone. There is a growing number of Hispanics in Nashville being diagnosed with diabetes.

Mirta Rodriquez, 75, found out she had diabetes 22 years ago and during one visit, her blood sugar levels were through the roof.

“It should be between 100 and 160 for her, but the patient had hot coco today, and hot coco has a lot of sugar,” said Leal.

Leal says many Hispanics live with the disease and don’t know they have it.

“The average undiagnosed is usually between five years and ten years,” said Leal.

So this nurse practitioner is educating her patients.

“It’s going to be very difficult to solve in one day, but prevention is the key and educating the patient, educating the community.”

Leal said Hispanics from Central America and the Caribbean see some of the highest number of diabetes cases, mainly because when they move here to the states, they adopted the American way of living and eating.”

“A passive lifestyle with poor eating habits and now the obesity,” added Leal.

For every one Hispanic Leal helps, she says there are many others who go untreated.

“They just want to be working the 7-days during the week, and making money so they take care of their family; their last priority is taking care of themselves,” said Leal.

Diabetes is a hereditary disease and the CDC estimates 40 percent of all Americans could develop Type Two diabetes while that number jumps to 50 percent for Hispanics.