Hypertension, abnormal cholesterol, and a high body mass index (BMI). These conditions are all considered unhealthy, and could lead to worse problems if they persist. Although many people believe that being skinnier will prevent these issues, there’s a lot more that goes into being healthy. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that Asian adults in the U.S. are just as likely to have these cardiovascular problems, even though they’re some of the skinniest people around.
Researchers looks at the incidence of these conditions in Asian Americans because “the number of Asian persons in the United States grew by more than 40 percent between 2000 and 2010,” they wrote. They then compared these rates to those of non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic adults aged 20 and over. Data was taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a program of studies that looks at nutrition and health trends among U.S. adults and children.
Not surprisingly, only 38.6 percent of Asian adults were considered overweight with a BMI of 25 or above. BMI is a measurement of body fat by calculating height and weight together. A normal BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9 while someone who is obese will have a BMI of 30 and above. By comparison, 66.7 percent of whites, 76.7 percent of blacks, and 78.8 percent of Hispanics had BMIs over 25.
But simply having a lower BMI doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is healthy, and it didn’t mean that Asian Americans were free from hypertension and abnormal cholesterol. In fact, their rates were about equal. About 25.6 percent of Asian adults had hypertension (defined as high blood pressure or someone taking pressure-lowering medications). Those rates were similar to whites and Hispanics, but lower than blacks, for whom 42.1 percent suffer from hypertension. Meanwhile, all groups had about the same rates of high total cholesterol, at 10.3 percent. About 14.3 percent of Asians had the good cholesterol, HDL — there were similar rates in whites and blacks — compared to 21.8 percent of Hispanics.
Due to the upsurge, Asian Americans now make up 4.9 percent of the population. According to the CDC, the Asian population mostly comprises people of Chinese, Asian Indian, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Japanese descent. The study was conducted to “address the scarcity of health information based on physical measurements of Asian persons,” the researchers wrote.
Source: Aoki Y, Yoon S, Chong Y, et al. Hypertension, Abnormal Cholesterol, and High Body Mass Index Among Non-Hispanic Asian Adults: United States, 2011-2012. Data Briefs. 2014.