South Asians in their native countries and abroad are among the top ethnicities winning the race of Type-2 diabetes!

I’m a South Asian and can attest to this. My dad, uncles, cousins, friends and next door neighbors in India all have type-2 diabetes, which is extremely alarming. Most of these people’s ages range from early 30’s to late 60’s. This is no different for South Asian immigrants living abroad in USA, UK, and Canada. A recent study of South Asians in the U.S. found that approximately 20% of South Asian adults suffered from type-2 diabetes.  

The high rates of prediabetes and type-2 diabetes among South Asians throughout the world is mainly because of changes in lifestyle behaviors such as increased hours of daylight spent working a desk job and a shift away from traditional dietary habits to those that include greater overall carbohydrates, saturated, and trans fats and lower amounts of dietary fiber and healthy fats. How did diabetes spread like a plague in South Asians? The answer lies in the techie and on-the-go, fast paced lifestyle ~ “always busy”, “super stressed”, “not sure what to eat to manage diabetes and heart conditions”, and “no time for exercise”

As per the article published in The Star, “When Ali Usman came to Canada from Pakistan in 1976, the 5-foot-6 man weighed only 120 pounds. Today, he weighs 190 pounds. He believes dietary changes and a fast-paced lifestyle contributed to his weight gain”. Another South Asian reported “I think it has a lot to do with an urban lifestyle. You sit at your desk all day. There is no proper lunch time. You get home after work, prepare dinner, and by the time you eat at 9, you are already famished”.1

Are you South Asian? Just being a South Asian puts you at a high risk for prediabetes and type-2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal. It is a silent killer! New studies show a shocking 25% of people with type 2 diabetes don’t even know it. Some of the symptoms you should not ignore include frequent bathrooms breaks than usual, feeling of being more thirsty than normal, unintended loss of weight, feeling tired and, feeling shaky and hungry, and tingling in foot. If you experience some of these subtle diabetes symptoms and signs, talk to your doctor about getting tested.

When we eat carbohydrates, such as sugar, bread, yogurt, rice, and fruits – our digestive system breaks it down into glucose, a simple sugar that is body’s main source of energy. The glucose goes straight into the bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that moves sugar from your bloodstream into muscle, fat, and liver cells of your body. It acts like a key! When insulin arrives at the cell’s surface and opens the door, blood glucose enters the cell, which uses it for energy! A diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes means that the insulin in your body is not doing its job adequately or your muscle cells are not allowing glucose to enter even though enough insulin is present forcing the glucose molecules to go to fats cells where it gets stored as triglycerides.

There are three types of diabetes diagnosis ~ Type 1 diabetes is linked to body’s inability to make insulin hormone due to something genetically wrong with cells in pancreas that make insulin; Type 2 diabetes is linked to lifestyle factors such as unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise, and obesity that leads to muscle cells resisting the action of insulin called insulin resistance resulting increased levels of blood sugars; and Gestational diabetes is linked to high blood sugar levels during pregnancy, which is a red flag for the development of type-2 diabetes in mother and child at a later age.

Some of the risk indicators for the development of type-2 diabetes in South Asians include:

  • A BMI of equal to or greater than 23 (BMI is the ratio of weight to height that suggests whether a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese)
  • A waist circumference of over 35 inches for males and over 32 inches for females

Many research studies have shown without fail that South Asians have a strong connection with diabetes mainly due to lifestyle factors, family history of diabetes, and most importantly higher percentage of body fat, especially belly fat compared to muscle. Therefore, I recommend that you take a little time each day to modify your lifestyle now and not wait until you get diagnosed with diabetes and heart conditions. It will seem a LOT HARDER to try to make a lot of lifestyle changes at once after the diagnosis.

In the next blog post, I will be discussing about ONE KEY reason why BEING A SOUTH ASIAN PUTS YOU AT THE RISK OF DIABETES and recommendations to prevent prediabetes and diabetes.

References 

  1. https://www.thestar.com/news/immigration/2015/08/10/heart-disease-risk-soars-among-south-asian-males-black-men-and-women.html
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