Why South Asian Families Need to Pay Attention to Diabetes


By Anjum Nayyar

This content was sponsored by the Boehringer Ingelheim-Lilly Canada Diabetes Alliance, but opinions are my own. Please consult your physician before making any changes to your health regime.

You’ve likely heard it before, if you’re South Asian, you may be at increased risk of type 2 diabetes. When my dad was diagnosed, our whole family had diabetes on their radar. We were acutely aware as a family that we had a history of diabetes on the other side of the family as well.  It can be overwhelming to think about how to help a loved one change their lifestyle with food and exercise, especially when they are set in their ways. Years after his diagnosis, my dad suffered a heart attack, but luckily had the right medical care to pull him through and has had good health ever since.

Many of us have type 2 diabetes in our family, have diabetes ourselves or have lost someone we love due to complications from diabetes. For South Asian families, knowing that diabetes can increase your risk of heart disease, heart failure and stroke can make all the difference.

Research shows that many Canadians of South Asian descent with diabetes are unaware of the heart-related risks their disease brings.

Portrait of multi generations Indian family at home. Asian people living lifestyle.

There is a worrisome knowledge deficit among South Asian Canadians with type 2 diabetes. Although 93 per cent feel they are knowledgeable about their disease management,  almost two-thirds do not know their diabetes alone significantly increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke. More importantly, statistics from Diabetes Canada show that people with diabetes are up to three times more likely to end up in hospital due to heart disease.

With all of the changes in our daily lifestyles as South Asian moms and caregivers, life can leave little time to manage health issues. Balancing our parents’ health needs when it comes to exercise and healthy living can also be overwhelming. That’s why understanding the ways in which both diabetes and heart disease can impact long term health should be part of the conversations you have with your doctor, so you have someone to help flag any concerns quickly and appropriately. The sooner we understand the risk, the sooner we can do something to reduce it.

Did you know? 48 per cent of South Asian Canadians with type 2 diabetes believe there are no medications that control blood sugar levels and heart disease, but there are actually diabetes treatments that may reduce the threat of early death from heart disease. Canadians with type 2 diabetes should speak to their healthcare providers about treatments that prevent early death from cardiovascular disease.

If you have type 2 diabetes, take an active role in the protection of your heart.

Diabetes Canada recommends that people with diabetes ask their doctor about the ABCDEs, a set of important tips that may help reduce their risk of heart disease.

Here are the ABCDEs to reduce the risk:

  • A – A1C – Control blood glucose levels and keep A1C around 7 per cent or less. A1C is a blood test that is an index of the average blood glucose level over the last 120 days
  • B – Blood pressure: Keep blood pressure to less than 130/80 mmHg
  • C – Cholesterol – Aim for your LDL cholesterol to be less than 2.0 mmol/L
  • D – Drugs to protect your heart – Speak with your doctor about medication options to help reduce the risk of heart disease
  • E – Exercise – Regular physical activity, which includes healthy diet, achievement and maintenance of a healthy body weight

For more information to help understand the risks, visit www.myheartmatters.ca.

This content was sponsored by the Boehringer Ingelheim-Lilly Canada Diabetes Alliance, but opinions are my own. Please consult your physician before making any changes to your health regime.


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