The Health Dangers Facing Our Hispanic Kids
Our children are our lives. We want them to be capable, successful, and proud of who they are and the culture they come from.
In addition to our strengths, they need to be aware of specific health challenges we face. If we address these now, we can put our young people on a path to lifelong health.
Did you know that Hispanic adults are 20% more likely to experience obesity than non-Hispanic white adults? (1) Obesity is a troubling trend because it can begin a chain reaction of serious health conditions.
What’s even more troubling is that our children are already at higher risk. Obesity among Hispanic children ages 6-11 is two times higher than for their non-Hispanic white counterparts, and 4 times higher for Hispanic children ages 2-4. (2)
We can already see the effects of obesity on our kids. Hispanic children who are obese have a higher incidence of carotid intima media thickness (CIMT). (3) CIMT measures the thickness of the vessel walls in the carotid artery, which can indicate a risk for heart disease if not properly treated.
Hispanic young people are more likely to have glucose dysregulation, meaning it’s harder for their bodies to regulate their blood sugar—a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. (4)
It’s critical to start teaching our children now about managing blood sugar to help prevent them from developing diabetes. In the United States, 12.5% of Hispanic adults have been diagnosed with diabetes compared to only 7.5% of white adults. (5)
Our well-intentioned concern about our children’s physical health can sometimes take attention away from another urgent concern—mental health.
Hispanic children and adolescents are more likely to experience depression and suicidal thoughts than their white counterparts.
In 2019, Hispanic girls grades 9-12 attempted suicide 30% more than did non-Hispanic white girls in the same age group. To make matters worse, Hispanic youths are much less likely than white youths to get adequate mental health care. (6)
Ways you can help
Like we always say at Santo Remedio, what is hard to do alone is easy to do together. Step by step we can educate ourselves and our children, moving the whole family toward a healthier lifestyle.
Prioritize family meal time and exercise
During meals you can encourage healthy eating, but just as important, you can build connections. These dedicated minutes together offer a time to share and listen, giving you insight into your loved ones’ physical and mental health.
Exercise is a mainstay of weight management, but its positive effects extend far beyond. Physical activity or participation in sports improve kids’ mental health.
Encourage mindful eating
Teach children to eat more slowly and listen to their bodies. When they start to feel full, let them know it’s ok to stop eating, even if they have food left on their plate or lunch tray.
Introduce healthy meals at home without fanfare and avoid commenting on your child’s body or weight. When they ask about the changes, tell them you want the whole family to work together on being healthy and strong.
Eliminate sugary drinks
Soda, sweetened tea, energy drinks, and other sugary beverages are responsible for the most empty calories (calories that don’t provide nutrition) and most added sugar in our kids’ diets. (7) While you can avoid serving these drinks at home, start teaching your kids about added sugar and empty calories so they can make better choices on their own.
Protect their sleep
Studies have shown that insufficient sleep and obesity are correlated. Having a consistent sleep schedule with enough hours helps children establish good metabolic health. What’s more, sufficient sleep is associated with improved mental health in adolescents. (8)
Teenagers need more sleep than you (or they!) might think, which is a challenge because this is precisely when their homework and extracurricular activities really ramp up.
But note, 57% of middle schoolers and 72% of high schoolers aren’t getting enough sleep. (9) Children 13-18 need 8-10 hours of sleep each night.
Assess their nutrition
Consider your kids’ typical diets. Are they getting enough calcium? What about probiotics to protect their gut health and immune system? Since fatty fish aren’t commonly our children’s daily fare, consider if they’re getting enough omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 has a positive effect on risk factors for heart disease, (10) depression and anxiety, (11) and metabolic syndrome. (12)
Taking care of our children can feel overwhelming. But together, we can make steady progress and set them up for a life of good health.
Let’s get healthier, together,
Your friends at Santo Remedio
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Obesity and Hispanic Americans. Accessed at https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=70
 Isasi, C. R., Rastogi, D., & Molina, K. (2016). Health Issues in Hispanic/Latino Youth. Journal of Latina/o psychology, 4(2), 67–82. https://doi.org/10.1037/lat0000054
 Toledo-Corral, C. M., Ventura, E. E., Hodis, H. N., Weigensberg, M. J., Lane, C. J., Li, Y., & Goran, M. I. (2009). Persistence of the metabolic syndrome and its influence on carotid artery intima media thickness in overweight Latino children. Atherosclerosis, 206(2), 594–598. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2009.03.013
 Marcus, M. D., Baranowski, T., DeBar, L. L., Edelstein, S., Kaufman, F. R., Schneider, M., Siega-Riz, A. M., Staten, M. A., Virus, A., & Yin, Z. (2010). Severe obesity and selected risk factors in a sixth grade multiracial cohort: the HEALTHY study. The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 47(6), 604–607. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.04.017
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Diabetes and Hispanic Americans. Accessed at https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=63
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Mental Health and Behavior - Hispanics. Accessed at https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=69
 Poti, J. M., Slining, M. M., & Popkin, B. M. (2014). Where are kids getting their empty calories? Stores, schools, and fast-food restaurants each played an important role in empty calorie intake among US children during 2009-2010. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(6), 908–917. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2013.08.012
 Hosker, D. K., Elkins, R. M., & Potter, M. P. (2019). Promoting Mental Health and Wellness in Youth Through Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Sleep. Child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America, 28(2), 171–193. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2018.11.010
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep in Middle and High School Students. Accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/features/students-sleep.htm
 Peter, S., Chopra, S., & Jacob, J. J. (2013). A fish a day, keeps the cardiologist away! - A review of the effect of omega-3 fatty acids in the cardiovascular system. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 17(3), 422–429. https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8210.111630
 Lin, P. Y., & Su, K. P. (2007). A meta-analytic review of double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of antidepressant efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 68(7), 1056–1061. https://doi.org/10.4088/jcp.v68n0712
 Ebrahimi, M., Ghayour-Mobarhan, M., Rezaiean, S., Hoseini, M., Parizade, S. M., Farhoudi, F., Hosseininezhad, S. J., Tavallaei, S., Vejdani, A., Azimi-Nezhad, M., Shakeri, M. T., Rad, M. A., Mobarra, N., Kazemi-Bajestani, S. M., & Ferns, G. A. (2009). Omega-3 fatty acid supplements improve the cardiovascular risk profile of subjects with metabolic syndrome, including markers of inflammation and auto-immunity. Acta cardiologica, 64(3), 321–327. https://doi.org/10.2143/AC.64.3.2038016
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