NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
A study published on April 3 reveals that Asians, along with Blacks and Latinos, have high risk factors for heart disease even if they are not overweight or obese.
Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta and the University of California, San Francisco studied data from 2,622 Caucasian, 1,893 Blacks, 1,496 Latinos, 803 Chinese Americans, and 803 South Asian participants aged 44 to 84. They used Body Mass Index (BMI), a height-to-weight ratio, to determine whether participants are normal, overweight, or obese. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines normal BMI as 18.5 to 24.9; overweight as 25.0 to 29.9; and obese as 30 and over.
The research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that among people of normal weight, South Asians were twice as likely as whites to have risk factors for heart disease.
That likelihood was 80 percent greater for Latinos and 50 percent for Blacks and people of Chinese descent, the research found.
Because Asians are known to have a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes at a lower BMI than other populations, the WHO created a different scale for Chinese and South Asians. In this scale, a BMI of 18.5 to 22.9 is considered a healthy weight, a BMI of 23 to 27.4 is overweight, and 27.5 or above is obese.
Unjali Gujral, a postdoctoral fellow with the Emory Global Diabetes Research Center and the study’s lead author, said researchers couldn’t say for sure whether the findings would be exactly the same for other East Asian ethnicities like Koreans or Japanese. Gujral said there is a shortage of studies with data on Asian Americans.
“But we can speculate we would have a higher risk in all Asian populations for these heart disease risk factors at normal weight compared to white individuals,” she said.
Gujral said she hopes the study sparks dialogue between patients and doctors, so that people of color with normal weight get screened for factors considered risks for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
“The major takeaway would be just for individuals who are members of race-ethnic minority populations to be aware of this increased risk and to have conversations with physicians or healthcare providers about their increased risk,” she said.