Why Asian-Americans Have Diabetes but Don't Know It

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 4, 2015 | Go to article overview

Why Asian-Americans Have Diabetes but Don't Know It


Byline: Lena H. Sun The Washington Post

More than half of Asian-Americans with diabetes don't know they have the condition, according to new research that quantifies, for the first time, how common diabetes is among that minority group in the United States.

What's even more surprising: Asian-Americans have the highest proportion of undiagnosed diabetes among all ethnic and racial groups, at 51 percent, according to researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And something else to keep in mind: Asian-Americans may be less overweight, generally, than the rest of the U.S. population, but they may actually be at greater risk for developing diabetes.

Compared to Americans in general, Asian-Americans are "not as overweight, but they should still be mindful of their activity levels and their diet and see their doctors to make sure they don't have diabetes," said Catherine Cowie, the study's senior author and director of diabetes epidemiology programs at the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

"Because at lower weight levels, they actually have a higher risk for diabetes," she said in an interview.

That's because Asian-Americans often develop diabetes at a lower body mass index, or BMI, than the U.S. population overall. (BMI estimates how much a person should weigh based on their height.) But it doesn't address the distribution of fat in a person's body. Fat around the waist is a risk factor for diabetes and other diseases, research has shown.

The latest analysis was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. …

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