8 Conditions With Higher Risk for Asian Americans

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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    Several factors play a role in the health conditions you are at risk for and whether or not you are likely to die from them. These include genetics, cultural dynamics, access to care, and environmental influences. As a group, Asian Americans are largely healthier than the general population. However, there are some high-risk Asian American health conditions. Knowing your risk for these diseases can help you take control of your health. Here are some of the top health concerns for Asian Americans.

  • 1
    Cancer
    Woman with cancer wearing head scarf looks out window

    In general, Asian Americans have a lower risk of cancer than non-Hispanic whites. However, there are certain cancers that tend to strike this group. Unlike other ethnic groups, cancer is the number one cause of death for Asian Americans. Adults in this group are twice as likely to develop stomach cancer compared to Caucasians. They also have twice the incidence of liver cancer. Their risk of death due to stomach cancer is at least twice as high as whites, as well.

  • 2
    Heart Disease
    Senior man monitoring his blood pressure at home

    Like cancer, heart disease is much less common in Asian Americans compared to non-Hispanic whites. This is probably related to risk factors. As a group, Asian Americans have lower rates of high blood pressure, obesity, and cigarette smoking. Asian American heart disease is also less deadly, meaning they are less likely to die from it. Still, heart disease is the second most common cause of death among Asian Americans.

  • 3
    Stroke
    Senior woman stretching with nurse

    Stroke has many of the same risk factors as heart disease. So, it isn’t surprising that Asian American stroke trends are similar to heart disease. There is a comparable incidence of stroke between Caucasians and Asian Americans. But Asian Americans are 20% less likely to die from stroke. Despite this, stroke is the number three killer of Asian Americans, which generally follows national statistics.

  • 4
    Diabetes
    Man checking blood sugar while working from home office

    Diabetes is 40% more common among Asian Americans compared to non-Hispanic whites. While their death rate from diabetes is not as high as whites, Asian Americans are more likely to develop end-stage kidney disease.

    The incidence of diabetes in this group may be surprising. After all, most people associate diabetes with being overweight and Asian Americans tend not to be. Researchers suggest it’s related to high visceral fat—fat that wraps around organs in the abdomen. It isn’t fat you can see, so it doesn’t affect BMI (body mass index). But having too much of it is a risk factor for diabetes.

  • 5
    Hepatitis
    Man talking to doctor

    Asian Americans make up 5% of the U.S. population. But they account for more than half of the people living with chronic hepatitis B. They are eight times more likely to die from it than non-Hispanic whites, as well. Most people in this group contracted hepatitis B before arriving in this country. And while hepatitis A rates have been declining in this group, Asian Americans still have the highest rate of infection of any racial or ethnic group.

  • 6
    Tuberculosis
    Woman working from home and coughing

    As a group, Asian Americans have a higher rate of tuberculosis than any other race or ethnicity. In fact, they account for more than 1 in 3 cases of tuberculosis in the United States. This makes the rate of Asian American tuberculosis more than 30 times higher than the rate in non-Hispanic whites. A major contributing factor is being born in or traveling to a country with high rates of tuberculosis. Countries with the highest disease burden include the Philippines, India, Vietnam, China and Myanmar.

  • 7
    Osteoporosis
    Portrait of senior couple outdoors

    About 20% of Asian American women have osteoporosis—or thinning of the bones. This is the same rate as Caucasian women, which is higher than both African American and Hispanic women. As a group, Asian American women tend to have several of the risk factors for osteoporosis—being small boned and having low body weight. They also generally have low calcium intake. Because 90% of Asian American adults are lactose intolerant, getting enough calcium can be challenging. Finding other sources of calcium, including calcium supplements, is important for overcoming this limitation.

  • 8
    Lupus
    Woman holding laundry with stiff shoulder

    Compared to the general population, lupus—or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)—is more common in Asian Americans. Experts are not certain why this is so. Lupus likely develops due a combination of genetic, environmental and hormonal factors. Scientists believe a gene could be involved in the higher rates among Asian Americans. This is an active area of lupus research.

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  9. Tuberculosis (TB): Asian Community. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/populations/tbinasians/default.htm
10 What Women Need to Know. National Osteoporosis Foundation. https://www.nof.org/preventing-fractures/general-facts/what-women-need-to-know/
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Apr 29
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