February is American Heart Month and obesity is a major contributor to heart disease in our nation. To the casual observer, Asian Americans may appear immune to the obesity epidemic plaguing whites, African Americans, and Hispanics. However, the growing population of Asian Americans (set to grow from 5% to 9% percent by 2040) is more susceptible to obesity-related health effects at lower weights and Asian Americans who do not appear fat on the outside, but show internal biological signs of carrying dangerous amounts of excess fat tissue, are casually termed ‘skinny fat.’
Body Mass Index (or BMI) is the standard calculation of body fat comparing height to weight, and health authorities generally consider a rating of 25 to be overweight, and 30 or higher to be obese. According to the CDC, only 10.8% of Asian Americans have a BMI score of 30 or higher, compared to one-third of whites, 42% of Hispanics, and nearly half of African Americans. However Asian Americans experience an increased risk for diabetes at a relatively low BMI of only 24, according to the American Diabetes Association. In addition the risk of cardiovascular disease, more prevalent among those who are overweight or obese, rises for Asian Americans with BMIs of 19 or 20, which might seem low for other race and ethnic groups in America.
Healthy nutrition and physical activity are still the best ways to prevent obesity and the Asian Health Coalition recently concluded “Let’s Move Uptown“, a 2-year a multi-component demonstration project aimed at improving physical activity and diet among adolescent youth in the low-income Uptown neighborhood, one of the densest and most ethnically diverse residential areas of Chicago with a sizeable minority Asian immigrant population. Our summary findings show that interventions like “Let’s Move Uptown” that is theory-based and includes nutrition education and physical activity is promising in changing behaviors among kids from low-income families by teaching them how to maintain healthy habits including exercise and nutrition.
Click here to read more about “Let’s Move Uptown“
Funding support for “Let’s Move Uptown” was made possible by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois, Crown Family Philanthropies, and HHS Office of Women’s Health.