Ethnicity, Culture and Disease: What puts you and those around you at risk?

By Lori Hudson Bertrand D.C., R.N

When you think about your, childhood, heritage and background, what comes to mind? Do you ever stop and think about those key individuals that help shape and influence you into the person you are today?

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While community, family and friends are all vital in the role of development, today we are going to take an alternative view on community and look into hereditary conditions along with cultural predispositions that can put you and those around you at risk for certain diseases.

These ethnicities have been associated with the following health conditions:

Northern European Americans (England, Ireland, Germany) Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Diabetes Mellitus
African Americans (Africa, West Indian Islands, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica) Cardiovascular Disease, Hypertension, Sickle Cell Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Lactose intolerance
Native Americans (North America, Alaska, Aleutian Islands) Alcoholism, Tuberculosis, Accidents, Diabetes Mellitus, Heart disease
Asian/Pacific Islander Americans (Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, India, Pacific Islands) Hypertension, Cancer, Diabetes Mellitus, Thalassemia, Lactose Intolerance
Latino Americans (Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, other countries of Central and South America) Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes Mellitus, Accidents, Lactose intolerance
Western European Americans (France, Italy, Greece) Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes Mellitus, Thalassemia
Arab Americans (Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab, Emirates, Yemen) Sickle Cell Disease, Thalassemia, Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer
Jewish Americans (Spain, Portugal, Germany, Eastern Europe Tay-Sachs Disease, Gaucher’s Disease, Familial Dysautonomia, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, Colorectal Cancer, Breast Cancer, Ovarian Cancer

Sources: Townsend (2011); Giger & Davidhizar (2008); Murray, Zentner, & Yakimo (2009); Purnell & Paulanka (2008); and Spector (2008).

There are so many variables that come into play as one grows and develops which help determine the health status of an individual. It is now known that behavior is a contributing factor, both positive and negative.  For example, leading an active lifestyle with daily physical activity provides health benefits while a sedentary life can be detrimental.  Biological makeup such as family history, genetics, and ethnicity (see chart above for examples) come into play as well. The environment in which we live, work and play can expose us to certain chemicals and toxins that can hinder the body from functioning at its optimal state.  While our actions affect our health, culture and ethnicity contribute to our disease risk.  Instead of seeing the negative, knowing your family history and what diseases you might be predisposed to can help you know how to better manage your health and the health of those around you.

Lori_frontblogImageDEFINE’s senior instructor and anatomy specialist, Lori Hudson Bertrand D.C., R.N. is a doctor in chiropractic and registered nurse. Her love for helping people and education of anatomy and physiology of the human body drives her to continue to share her experiences and knowledge with others as they peruse their journey towards health and restoration!

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