South Asian health issues

If you're from a south Asian background, you're more likely than people from other communities in the UK to have certain health conditions.

This is also the case for some mixed-race people of south Asian descent.

The term "south Asian" in these articles refers to anyone of Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani or Sri Lankan origin.

While each of these communities has its own unique culture and background, they all share some common health issues.

Read more about:

Diabetes and heart disease

Smoking and chewing tobacco

Eye health and kidney health

Blood and organ donation

Travelling to south Asia

Diabetes and heart disease

People in the UK from south Asian communities are about twice as likely to develop diabetes compared with people from white European backgrounds.

South Asian people are also more likely to develop diabetes at a younger age.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is also more common in south Asian people, as is the risk of dying early from CHD.

Experts aren’t sure why this is the case, but it may be linked to diet, lifestyle and different ways of storing fat in the body.

Check your risk of diabetes

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that all south Asian people aged 25 and older should be encouraged to have a risk assessment for diabetes.

You can ask you GP practice to assess your risk of diabetes. Some pharmacies, dentists and opticians also offer assessments.

You can also use an online diabetes assessment tool

All adults aged 40-74 should be offered an NHS Health Check every five years, which includes an assessment of your diabetes risk.

Check your weight

Being a healthy weight is important for everyone's health.

But research shows that fat around the belly of a south Asian person is more risky than the same amount of fat in a white person.

South Asian adults are given the following advice:

  • If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 23 or more, you have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 
  • If your BMI is 27.5 or more, you have a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Calculate your BMI to find out if you are a healthy weight for your height.

Reduce your risk

There are many things you can do to improve your health and reduce your risk of developing heart disease or diabetes, such as maintaining a healthy weight and doing more exercise.

Find out more:

Children and diabetes

Children of south Asian origin in the UK are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than white European children.

Weight gain caused by eating traditional foods high in sugar and fat, alongside Western "fast foods", is thought to be a contributing factor, according to Diabetes UK.

Get advice on managing your child's weight.

Smoking and chewing tobacco

Rates of smoking are generally lower in Indian communities in England than in the general population.

However, Bangladeshi and Pakistani men have higher rates of smoking than in the general population.

Smoking bidi or shisha, and chewing paan or gutkha – both of which are forms of "smokeless tobacco" – can be harmful, too.

Find out about the risks of paan, bidi and shisha, and getting support to quit.

Eye health and kidney health

The eye condition acute glaucoma and chronic kidney disease can affect anybody, but people from south Asian communities have a higher risk.

Having diabetes increases the chances of developing kidney disease, and research suggests that diabetes can also raise the risk of glaucoma.

Learn more about kidney disease and glaucoma.

Blood and organ donation

Organ and blood donation among south Asian, African and African Caribbean communities is relatively low.

This means that there is a shortage of donor organs and blood matching the tissue or blood type of members of these ethnic groups.

You can add your name to the NHS Organ Donor Register online.

Find out why it's important for ethnic minorities to donate blood and organs.

Read what different religions say about blood and organ donation.

Travelling to south Asia

Many cases of typhoid and malaria in the UK are in people who have returned from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

If you're travelling to south Asia, find out about: 

Weight loss tips

People talk about how they have successfully lost weight and an NHS dietitian offers useful tips.

Media last reviewed: 14/07/2015

Next review due: 14/07/2017

Page last reviewed: 14/03/2016

Next review due: 14/03/2018

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