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Diabetes is a disease that causes blood sugar levels to be too high. Over time high blood sugar levels can hurt many parts of your body, such as your skin, mouth, kidneys, heart, nerves, eyes, and feet. It can even cause death.
Type 2 diabetes — the most common type of diabetes — is a growing problem for Asian-Americans. It is the fifth leading cause of death in the Asian-American population. Among Asian-Americans, Asian-Indians have the highest rates of diabetes. Japanese-, Chinese-, Filipino-, and Korean-Americans also have higher diabetes rates than non-Hispanic whites despite having lower body weight. Many experts think that genetics and the Western lifestyle account for the high risk of diabetes in Asian-Americans.
You can't control some risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as your age, race, or family history. But you can prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes by taking these steps:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity are risk factors for diabetes. Asian-Americans need to be aware that their diabetes risk goes up with even a small amount of weight gain. Talk to your doctor to find out what a healthy weight is for you.
- Eat low-fat, well-balanced meals.
- Make physical activity a habit. Health benefits are gained by doing the following each week:
- 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
- 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
- A combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity
- Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days of the week
- 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
- Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day.
You could have type 2 diabetes and not know it. Type 2 diabetes sometimes has no warning signs. Talk to your doctor about diabetes in your family. Get your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels checked regularly, as advised by your doctor. If you find out you have diabetes, you can take steps to manage the disease and live a full and active life. Making healthy eating and physical activity a regular part of your family life also will help to lower your loved ones' risk of diabetes.
There are other forms of diabetes:
- Gestational diabetes is too high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Asian-Americans have higher rates than non-Hispanic white women. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy. But you are at higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys insulin-making cells. It is far less common than type 2 and often starts in childhood. There is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Read more from womenshealth.gov
Diabetes Fact Sheet — This fact sheet discusses the risk factors for and signs, symptoms, and treatments of diabetes in women.
Explore other publications and websites
Am I at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes? Taking Steps to Lower Your Risk of Getting Diabetes — This fact sheet defines diabetes and reviews the signs and symptoms of the disease. It discusses the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes and the ways it can be prevented.
Asian American Diabetes Initiative (Copyright © Joslin Diabetes Center) — This is a bilingual (English-Chinese) site with interactive tools dedicated to improving diabetes awareness and management in Asian American populations.
Asian American Health — Diabetes — This website links to several different pages with information on diabetes in Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Diabetes — Diabetes mellitus poses a rapidly growing health challenge to Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians in the United States. This Internet site provides information and statistics on the risks and complications associated with diabetes.
Diabetes Overview — This fact sheet explains the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It explains how type 2 — the most common kind — is diagnosed and managed. The fact sheet also provides information on the scope, impact, cost of diabetes, and research currently underway.
Diabetes Risk Test (Copyright © American Diabetes Association) — This interactive tool can help you determine your risk of diabetes. It includes information on prevention, how to cope, and more.
Take Care of Your Heart. Manage Your Diabetes. For Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — The National Diabetes Education Program's "Take Care of Your Heart" campaign encourages Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians with diabetes to take steps now to reduce their risk of heart attacks or strokes, the leading killers of people with diabetes. The campaign also focuses on the importance of family support. Through this site, you can access different Asian-language versions of this campaign.
Tips to Help You Stay Healthy — This booklet provides an action plan for diabetes control that includes tips on controlling blood glucose levels. Being proactive can help prevent or delay diabetes complications and help you to feel your best.
Two Reasons I Find Time to Prevent Diabetes: My Future and Theirs — Overweight or obese Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians are at risk for diabetes. This tip sheet explains the risk and gives small steps that can help prevent diabetes or prediabetes.
Two Reasons I Find Time to Prevent Diabetes: My Future and Theirs (Chinese) — Overweight or obese Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians are at risk for diabetes. This tip sheet explains the risk and gives small steps that can help prevent diabetes or prediabetes.
Two Reasons to Prevent Diabetes: My Future and Theirs (Cambodian) — This tip sheet provides information about Asian Americans' and Pacific Islanders' risk for diabetes and the small steps they can take to prevent the disease.
Why Do People of Asian Descent Get Diabetes? (Copyright © Joslin Diabetes Center) — This publication attributes the higher rates of diabetes in Asian-Americans to a combination of environment, excessive weight gain, diet, and genetic factors.
Connect with other organizations
American Diabetes Association
Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum
National Asian Women's Health Organization
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NIH, HHS
Office of Minority Health, HHS
Content last updated May 18, 2010.
Resources last updated May 18, 2010.
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