According to a recent study conducted by the American Heart Association, rates of ideal cardiovascular health among Asian Americans is no different than among Whites when using a lower Asian-specific body mass index (BMI). Authors of the study say their research is the first to assess the heart health of Asian Americans using a nationally representative sample.
A “normal” BMI is considered to be anything below 25. But previous research has suggested that Asian Americans are at higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol at lower BMI thresholds. Failure to use population-specific metrics can put Asian Americans at a higher risk for going undiagnosed and untreated. More than half of Asians with diabetes go undiagnosed, for example, according to the American Heart Association.
Dr. Jing Fang, the study’s lead author, said that these findings “highlight the need for the application of population-specific and culturally appropriate metrics when assessing [cardiovascular health].” This is made all the more important by the fact that Asian Americans are one of the fastest-growing groups in the U.S. They currently make up 5.6% of the overall population, and are projected to double in population by 2060, according to the American Heart Association.
Anh Vu Sawyer is someone who is well aware of the fact that low BMI doesn’t equate to good heart health.
“I have a very low body mass index,” said Sawyer, “but I was surprised to learn that I’m already prediabetic and did have high blood pressure.” These conditions put her at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Her diagnosis 8 years ago was a reminder to eat healthier, but also to educate others. She’s the executive director of the Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, MA, which serves around 10,000 people in the local Southeast Asian community. One of the many services they provide is a healthy eating group, and an urban gardening project.
Sawyer wants to open a commercial kitchen that uses the fresh produce from the garden. She envisions catering and cooking classes from the kitchen, and opportunities for community seniors to cook.
“The food the elders cook is just amazing,” Sawyer said. Still, she reminds herself to be mindful of her diet.
“I have to stay off the noodles,” she laughed. “Once a week, that’s it.”
Hopefully with this latest research publication, more people in the medical profession and the general population will know when someone is at risk, and should be watching their diet and taking other measures for better heart health.
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