Blacks and Latinos are less likely to be aware they have diabetes or hypertension than their white counterparts, according to a study from the University of Albany’s Center for the Elimination of Minority Health Disparities and funded by a National Institutes of Health grant.

The study examined the data of 8,051 respondents from the national Health and Retirement Survey (HRS), which collects economic and health data on people 50 and older. The respondents took health examinations in 2006 and were re-interviewed in 2008.

Researchers found that minorities are often 10 percent less likely than non-Latino whites to be aware of their chronic illness. What’s more, related studies have found that nearly 15 percent of Americans have undiagnosed hypertension, diabetes or high cholesterol and that African American are significantly more likely to have one of these conditions.

“The large number of minorities being treated for diabetes and hypertension may lead to the conclusion that awareness of chronic illness is high among minorities,” said Pinka Chatterji, an economist with Albany University. “However, if we limit our analysis to untreated individuals, we find that significant disparities persist along racial and ethnic lines in awareness of these serious conditions.”

If people were aware of these conditions earlier, they would be better able to manage the disease’s progression, said the study’s authors. The lack of awareness contributes to health disparities and speeds the disease’s progression, which in turn leads to disability.

Furthermore, these untreated conditions affect the nation’s health care system and economy. The direct and indirect health costs, such as lost production from hypertension and diabetes, add up to more than $250 billion annually.

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