Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a collection of diseases that involve high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both (American Diabetic Association, 1997).
Diabetes (especially type 2 diabetes – the most common form of diabetes) is a rising health problem for South Asians (from Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan) and those with South Asian ancestry. (But diabetes is not just a South Asian problem, it is an Asian problem! In 2013, approximately 50% of the people of the world with diabetes were located in Asia with India, Indonesia, China, and Japan in the top 10 countries with the most patients with diabetes.) (Diabetes Voice, Volume 59, Issue 1 (March 2014).
South Asians (especially Bangladeshis) are one of the most rapidly growing immigrant groups in the US trying to achieve the American dream - finding good jobs, owning a home, and having a higher standard of living. Despite their successes in realizing the dream, South Asian immigrants are finding their health in jeopardy with the type 2 diabetes epidemic.
South Asians living in western countries have a 4–6X higher risk of developing diabetes than other ethnic groups according to some reports. South Asians also tend to develop 5-10 years earlier than the general population. Furthermore, they develop diabetes at a lower body mass index (BMI) than the general population.
Risk Factors for both Pre-diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes:
Obesity or Overweight
Family members with Diabetes
High triglycerides (> 250 mg/dl) and low HDL cholesterol (< 35 mg/dl)
High blood pressure (≥ 140/90 mmHg).
Having had gestational diabetes
Having had a baby weighing > 9 pounds at birth
And… belonging to one of these minority groups: Native Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic Americans/Latinos, or Asian-American/Pacific Islanders.
Obesity and type 2 Diabetes:
Evidence exists supporting increased risk for type 2 diabetes in persons who are obese. In fact, type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity more than any other risk factor.
Greater than 80% of people with type 2 diabetes are either overweight or obese. Approximately 9 out of 10 newly diagnosed diabetes patients are overweight.
Why is Weight a Risk Factor?
Extra body fat causes the body to have difficulty using its own insulin to affect blood glucose and keep it within normal circulating levels.
Reasons for difficulty controlling blood glucose in people with extra body fat:
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a practical way to assess body fat. BMI provides a more accurate measure of total body fat compared to body weight alone. Below is an easy method for calculating BMI:
(Ex: for a person who is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 180 pounds).
1. Multiply weight (in pounds) by 703
180 x 703 = 126,540
2. Multiply height (in inches) by height (in inches)
65 x 65 = 4,225
3. Divide the answer in step 1 by the answer in step 2 to get the BMI
126,540/4,225 = 29.9
BMI = 29.9