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Asians more prone to diabetes

The health differences between UK Asians and those in India are blamed on lifestyle, says Nabanita Sircar.

india Updated: Mar 10, 2006 19:06 IST

Swift action is needed to combat the "epidemic" of diabetes and heart disease among UK Asians, according to a study on Friday.

Research suggests that British men and women whose families are from the Indian sub-continent are about 50% more at risk of coronary heart disease than Europeans.

Evidence also shows that 20% are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, compared with 3% of the general population.

The health differences between UK Asians and those in India are blamed on the diet and lifestyle of those living in the West.

The British Heart Foundation-funded report is being launched at the House of Commons, and author Professor Paul Durrington from the University of Manchester called for services in both primary and secondary care to be more proactive in seeking out risk factors, as well as educating high-risk groups on how to reduce their risk.

He said: "Of immediate concern are the high rates of untreated diabetes, abnormal cholesterol levels and high blood pressure amongst South East Asians in the UK.

"The good news is that the final outcomes of cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke, could be reduced significantly by identifying and addressing risk factors earlier on."

Today's report is launched at the same time as another study highlights the need to identify and manage cardiovascular risk factors, such as abdominal obesity and Type 2 diabetes, in UK Asian communities.

The BHF research reports that South Asian men and women are more likely than the general population to have abdominal obesity -- a large waist circumference -- which is a leading risk factor for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes means sufferers are at greater risk of having a stroke, developing heart disease, high blood pressure and circulation problems, as well as damaging their kidneys and eyes.

Professor Sudhesh Kumar, professor of medicine, diabetes and metabolism at the University of Warwick, said: "Recent studies suggest that using a tape measure could be a more accurate way of measuring your cardiovascular and metabolic risk than relying on body mass index (BMI) alone.

"So if you're an Asian woman and have a waist circumference of more than 80cm or a man with a waist circumference of 90cm, you are at greater risk of heart disease and diabetes and should seek advice from a healthcare professional.

"Healthcare professionals should be aware of the lower risk thresholds for their South Asian patients."

A pilot project in South Warwickshire has already been working with local Asian communities to encourage healthier lifestyles in order to prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The collaboration -- backed by agencies including the Department of Health, South Warwickshire PCT and Acute Trust, the University of Warwick, the National Diabetes Support Team and Diabetes UK - calls for education and action among ethnic minority groups exposed to greater health risks.

The PCT and the university have also developed a DVD for healthcare professionals and South Asian communities, indicating how small changes to diet and lifestyle can have a big impact on cardiovascular health.

Sir George Alberti, national director for emergency access and former president of the International Diabetes Federation, said: "The global diabetes epidemic we face is explosive - over the next 10 years diabetes will increase all over the world by as much as 80% in some regions.

"In the UK there are currently over two million people affected by diabetes, with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease remaining two of the leading causes of premature death for all UK adults."

Zoe Harrison, care adviser at Diabetes UK, said: "Diabetes can lead to devastating health problems, including heart disease and stroke.

"As people from the South Asian communities are up to six times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than the white population, we welcome any initiative which can help raise awareness among the Asian communities and curb the current epidemic.

"The more information people receive, the more they can do to manage their diabetes and reduce their risk of long-term complications."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We are well aware that people from minority ethnic communities have up to a six times higher than average risk of developing diabetes - that is why we are tackling poor diet on a national scale and backing a pilot project working with Asian communities to prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes by encouraging healthier lifestyles.

"Our White Paper Choosing Health set out a range of actions to improve health and tackle the health inequalities that can lead to poor diet and ill health.

"Reducing obesity is one of our key priorities and work under way includes a new cross-Government obesity campaign and food labelling to help people buy healthier food and further work with industry to reduce salt, fat, sugar and portion sizes."

First Published: Mar 10, 2006 19:04 IST