To Your Health: Who’s at risk for diabetes? More people than you think

Heart Walk 5

When you look into a crowd, you probably think you know who’s at risk for developing diabetes. The American Diabetes Associations says that kind of thinking is just plain wrong.

I have prediabetes, and I always thought the Portuguese side of my family was to blame. My stocky Portuguese grandpa struggled with diabetes later in life. But my grandma on my Japanese side also had diabetes. She was a little over 100 pounds and 5 feet tall.

Lots of us tend to associate certain body types with diabetes, and we think thin people aren’t at risk of developing the condition.

That, according to the American Diabetes Association, is wrong-headed.

The American Diabetes Association now recommends that Asian Americans get screened for diabetes at a lower body mass index (BMI), a measure of your body fat based on your height and weight. You can find a BMI calculator here.

For most of us, the ADA recommends getting tested for diabetes if you have a BMI of 25 or higher, which is considered overweight. A woman who is 5-foot-5-inches, and weighs 150 pounds has a BMI of 25.

But the ADA says Asian Americans should get screened for diabetes when they have a BMI of 23 or higher. A woman who is 5-foot-5 has a BMI of 23 at 140 pounds.

Still, no matter what your ethnicity is, one of the biggest culprits for increasing your risk of diabetes — and other health problems — is added sugar in your diet. The ADA and the American Heart Association agree on this point.


I recently called AHA’s Hawaii chapter and spoke with government relations Director Don Weisman. He’s busy raising awareness about heart health, and trying to garner support for a bill that would add a fee to sugar-sweetened beverages. Revenues from the fee would be used to fund statewide community obesity prevention programs.

I asked Weisman why everybody — AHA, ADA, and pretty much every other health organization out there — is so concerned about added sugar. He said it’s simple: Added sugar is making people sick. It’s contributing to heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.

He said not even he was immune from the dangers of added sugar. In the past, he noticed he was gaining weight. When he took a look at his diet, he realized he was drinking a daily can of iced tea with a lot of sugar in it. He cut that out, substituted water with his lunch, and lost 15 pounds over 6 months.

Of course, here in the islands, the newest recommendations about diabetes and the new warnings about added sugar have big implications.

A significant portion of Hawaii’s population is Asian American. And all of us love our sweets, including our sugary beverages.

So, how can we start living healthier?

Most experts recommend a good approach is to take small, healthy steps that become good habits. Grab a salad or a piece of fruit and take that to work so you’re not tempted to buy a soda when your energy wanes. Start walking with a friend. And think a little bit more about how you eat, especially how much sugar is in your diet.

AHA recommends women get no more than 100 calories a day of added sugar (about 6 teaspoons). Men should get no more than 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons). A typical 12-ounce soda exceeds those recommendations.

Being healthy shouldn’t be a chore. It’s a way of life; eating well and keeping fit should be enjoyable. Hopefully, we’ll continue to find exercise that motivates you and recipes you’d like to try out to make a few important small changes for a long life.

denise bio


Denise Lau is a content specialist at HMSA and blogs about mommyhood with her #808moms series. She has her hands full with a precocious, artistic daughter and active son. Her goal is to be healthy and fit while her kids become successful, well-rounded adults. Follow her on Twitter.


  • Thanks Denise for sharing the important information about the dangers of overconsumption of sugar, especially in the form of beverages. Until we begin to make significant changes in our society’s consumption of sugar-added beverages, we’ll continue to see rises in obesity, type-2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome along with the other health maladies they cause.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Thanks Don! I’m working on my own sugar addiction and trying to eat better. I’m also finding that exercising after dinner everyday really helps my sugar levels when I do cheat a bit..


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