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October 29, 2008 > Diabetes Rates High in Indian Community

Diabetes Rates High in Indian Community

Washington Hospital Seminar Focuses on Health Risks

The Indian culture is well-known for its tandoori, bhangra, and yoga. It's also becoming known for its high rates of diabetes. People of South Asian descent are four to five times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, according to the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin.

"There is a higher genetic predisposition for diabetes in the South Asian community in general," said Dr. Aruna Chakravorty, an endocrinologist at Washington Hospital who will present and upcoming seminar on the topic. "People who emigrated here from India face a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes."

Part of Washington Hospital's free Diabetes Matters education series, "Diabetes in the Indian Community" will be held on Thursday, November 6, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Conrad E. Anderson, MD Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. To register for the seminar, call (800) 963-7070.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not properly use insulin, a hormone it needs to convert food into energy. When this process is not working correctly, blood glucose (sugar) levels rise. Over time, high blood glucose damages nerves and blood vessels, leading to complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve problems, gum infections and amputation.

"The Indian population already has a high predisposition for heart disease, so those with diabetes dramatically increase their risk of a heart attack," Chakravorty said. "I will talk about diabetes and how it affects heart disease."

She will discuss the risk factors associated with diabetes, including a family history of the disease, low HDL or "good" cholesterol and high LDL or "bad" cholesterol, and higher than normal blood glucose. When blood glucose levels are higher than normal but lower than the diabetes range, this is called pre-diabetes.

"It is important to understand these risk factors because if we catch it early, we can prevent or at least delay the onset of diabetes," Chakravorty said. "If you are pre-diabetic, you need to take steps now to reduce your risk. And if you already have type 2 diabetes, it is important to keep it under control with medication and lifestyle choices."


Controlling Diabetes

Studies show that moderate exercise and weight loss can prevent or delay diabetes. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, coupled with a 5 to 10 percent reduction in body weight, produced a 58 percent reduction in diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Chakravorty will provide ways to reduce your risk for serious complications associated with diabetes, including maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and eating a balanced diet that is low in fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates (white rice, white bread and white pasta).

"Diet and exercise are critical to lowering your risk of complications from diabetes," she said. "A lot of Indians are vegetarians and their diets tend to be high in carbohydrates. They also tend to underestimate the importance of exercise. In India, people walk everywhere and are more physically active, so they burn more calories. Younger generations living here and those who came over from India are living more sedentary lifestyles in the U.S., so they need to incorporate exercise into their lives."

She will also talk about some of the medications available that can help keep diabetes under control. Type 2 diabetes can be treated with pills and insulin.

"I will clear up some myths about insulin," Chakravorty said. "In the Indian community, there are a lot of misconceptions around insulin. Mainly that insulin is a last resort, which is not correct."

To learn more about diabetes in the Indian community, register for the seminar at (800) 963-7070. To find out about other diabetes education classes and services, call (510) 745-6556 or visit Washington Hospital's Outpatient Diabetes website, www.whhs.com/services/diabetes

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