Diabetes in South Asians

South Asians are 6 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes South Asians are 6 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is growing problem for people from South Asia.

The chance of developing type 2 diabetes is 6 times higher in South Asians than in Europeans.[1]

The South Asian community refers to people whose origin is:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • India
  • the Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a long term health condition that is characterised by high levels of glucose in the blood. Common symptoms of diabetes include continual tiredness, increased need to go to the toilet to urinate, thirst, blurred vision and dry eyes.

Type 2 diabetes can take a number of years to develop and can damage the body, particularly if it is not diagnosed early enough.

The condition is often, but not always, associated with being overweight.

Diabetes risk factors

As well as having a South Asian background, there are others factors, which can make diabetes more likely to appear.

These risk factors include:


People of South Asian origin are at a higher risk of diabetes than other ethnicities. Charity Diabetes UK states that development of type 2 diabetes is up to 6 times more likely for South Asians.

It is important to be aware of the symptoms of diabetes which include:

  • Being very thirsty
  • Needing to urinate often
  • Feeling tired and lethargic, particularly after meals
  • Having dry eyes or blurred vision
  • Having recurrent yeast infections

There are a number of factors which can increase the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. These include:

  • Having a close relative with diabetes
  • Being over 25 years old
  • Having high blood pressure
  • If you lead an inactive lifestyle

BMI and waist measurements are an important risk factor to take note of as well. South Asians are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they have:

  • A BMI of over 23
  • A waist measurement over 35 inches for males
  • A waist measurement of over 31.5 inches for females

Type 2 diabetes can be treated by managing your diet and making lifestyle changes, Taking tablets or maybe even with administering injections. If type 2 diabetes is diagnosed early enough and well controlled, it can be possible to avoid going onto medication.

It may be possible to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by taking regular exercise or maintaining a healthy weight. If you are overweight, try reducing your intake of calories and limiting potions of fatty or carbohydrate heavy foods.

You could try basing your meals around vegetables and cutting back on the amount of alcohol you consume to improve you weight loss efforts. But remember, when considering weight loss, it is important that you follow a healthy diet plan, for more information on this, speak to your doctor.

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Should I be tested for type 2 diabetes?

If you are overweight and have one or more of the risk factors above, it is worth getting checked to see if you have either diabetes or prediabetes.

You can be tested for type 2 diabetes by your GP and a number of high street pharmacies now offer testing and evaluation services to test your risk.

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How dangerous is diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious condition. If undiagnosed or not well controlled, the risks of having heart disease, kidney disease or eye damage are greatly increased.

On the plus side, diabetes is an illness that can be managed. With a good diet, regular activity and, if needed, medication people can live healthily. Some people even report that their diabetes diagnosis has been a much needed welcome call and helped them to get their lives back on track.

I don’t have diabetes, what can I do to prevent it?

Diabetes can be either prevented or delayed, for as much as decades, by making and sticking to some basic lifestyle changes.

  • Aim to be physically active each day - read tips on keeping active
  • Keep your diet relatively free from high calorie and processed foods
  • If overweight, choose smaller portions of fatty and carbohydrate heavy foods
  • Avoid smoking and cut down on any alcohol

Healthy eating

Type 2 diabetes is believed to be partly brought on by diet. Certainly not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight, however, about 85 to 90% are.

Healthy eating is therefore a key factor for reducing the risk of diabetes and for managing diabetes for those who have it.

I have diabetes, how can I control it?

A lot of people with diabetes find the illness to be very confusing, particularly in the early stages.

Understanding what diabetes is and how exactly it affects us in the way it does is a great first step in helping to get the condition under control.

With an understanding of the condition and how it affects you, you’re in a good position to make the lifestyle changes needed.

Much of the same advice for preventing diabetes can be applied for those who have diabetes, particularly if you are overweight or struggling with cholesterol levels.

Treatment and blood glucose testing

Depending on how high your blood sugar levels are, you may be put onto medication. The guidelines given to the NHS by NICE (The National Institute of Clinical Excellence) recommend people with type 2 diabetes are given education to help them manage their condition. Particularly if medication is being prescribed, access to blood glucose supplies should be made available to go with the education.

Blood glucose testing supplies are relatively expensive and some GPs may be reluctant to prescribe the supplies. If you are in this position, read our guide on test strip availability to see how you may be able to persuade your GP to prescribe these supplies.

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