Studies have shown that Asians are at a higher risk of developing type II diabetes than Europeans. As Asia is continuing to develop, lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol are on the rise. About 70% of diabetes patients live in Asia. Further, more than ten percent of adults in China, South Korea, Japan, and Vietnam suffer from diabetes.
Obesity contributes heavily to type II diabetes. Malaysia has the highest rate of obesity in Asia – almost half of Malaysian adults are overweight or obese. However, obesity is not the only factor that contributes to the high diabetes rates in Asia. Urbanization and modernization have led to less physical activity, and globalization has made fast food widely available. High smoking rates and consumption of white rice and other refined grains are also factors.
It is unfortunate that these preventable diseases are affecting such a large portion of the Asian population. However, lifestyle diseases pose a large challenge because it involves changing people’s habits. Also, if the healthcare system is geared toward providing care to patients when they become ill, rather than focusing on preventative care, patients will not feel compelled to make changes in their daily habits to prevent the disease from developing initially. Healthcare systems must focus on education and prevention in order to help decrease diabetes and obesity rates in Asia.