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

Diabetes, particularly cases of type 2 diabetes, is a growing health problem for people of South Asian descent.

The likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes is reported to be as much as 6 times higher in South Asians than in Europeans, with a number of factors - mostly linked with lifestyle - believed to be behind this increased risk.

In fact, South Asian people make up just 4% of the total UK population,  but account for an estimated 8% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.

What is defined as South Asian?

People of South Asian origin refers to individuals whose ethnicity is from one or more of the following countries:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • India
  • Maldives
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka

However, when referring to the South Asian community in the UK, this is generally limited to people of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent, who combined make up the largest ethnic minority in the country.

What are the statistics?

People from South Asian communities are known to be up to 6 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes than the general population. In addition, South Asians tend to have poorer diabetes management, putting them at higher risk of serious health complications.

South Asians without diabetes are also 3 times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, but combined with type 2 diabetes, this risk rises even further, particularly for adults with type 2 diabetes aged 20 to 60.

Furthermore, the survival rates in these young patients are also significantly lower compared to the caucasian population.

Risk indicators

In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that adults of South Asian origin are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they have:

  • A body mass index (BMI) of 23 or more, indicating they are overweight, and/or
  • A waist size of 35 inches or more for males, and 31.5 inches or more for females.
Transcript

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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Why are South Asians at higher risk?

It is not entirely known why this is the case, but many experts believe diet, lifestyle and different ways of storing fat in the body all play a major part in upping the risk for this ethnic group.

Diet and obesity

In terms of diet, traditional foods high in sugar and fat combined with western "fast foods" are thought to be a major factor behind the high rates of obesity amongst South Asian communities in western countries, and could therefore also play a role in the development of diabetes.

Obesity, particularly central or abdominal obesity, is strongly associated with type 2 diabetes and people of South Asian origin are known to be more likely to have excess fat stored around the abdomen.

Genetics

Genes are thought to play a big part in South Asians' diabetes risk.

In one large-scale international study, published in the August 2011 edition of journal Nature Genetics, six separate genes were identified that make this group of people susceptible to type 2 diabetes.

Muscles and fat metabolism

In 2010, a study published in the journal PLOS One suggested the way in which people of South Asian origin burn fat through their muscles could make them more prone to type 2 diabetes.

The team from Glasgow University found that South Asians have skeletal muscles which do not burn fat as well as Europeans.

This impaired fat metabolism may increase the likelihood of insulin resistance, which is often a precursor to full-blown type 2 diabetes.

What is 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 is often, but not always, associated with being overweight, and can take a number of years to develop and can damage the body, particularly if it is not diagnosed early enough.

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.

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