First NHANES Estimate of CVD Risk in Asian Americans

Marlene Busko

January 15, 2014

HYATTSVILLE, MD — A report based on data from the 2011–2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) provides a glimpse of current rates of hypertension, abnormal cholesterol, and high body-mass index (BMI) among non-Hispanic Asian Americans over age 20[1].

The 2011–2012 NHANES oversampled non-Hispanic Asian Americans for the first time, which allowed the researchers to obtain demographic and CVD risk-factor information about this population subgroup. The data brief, by Dr Yutaka Aoki (National Center for Health Statistics, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, MD) and colleagues, was issued on January 15, 2014.

About one in four (25.6%) surveyed non-Hispanic Asian adults had hypertension (blood pressure >140/90 mm Hg or taking antihypertensives), similar to the prevalence among Hispanics or whites but less than the prevalence among blacks. As in other racial and ethnic groups, hypertension rates increased with age—in this case, from 5% at age 20 to 39 years up to 59.6% at age 60 and older.

About one in 10 non-Hispanic Asian men and women had high total cholesterol (serum total cholesterol >240 mg/dL), similar to the prevalence among other groups.

However, among non-Hispanic Asian adults, many more men than women—24.5% vs 5.1%—had low levels of HDL cholesterol (serum HDL cholesterol <40 mg/dL), which was a greater sex difference than among other groups.

Only 38.6% of the non-Hispanic Asian adults had a high BMI (>25 kg/m2)—much lower than previously reported rates for non-Hispanic white adults (66.7%), non-Hispanic black adults (76.7%), and Hispanic adults (78.8%).

"At a given BMI, Asian adults may have more body fat than white adults," the authors suggest. "Also, morbidity and mortality risk may be influenced by body composition and fat distribution in a manner that is not completely captured by BMI."

Growing, Diverse Subgroup of Americans

The number of Asian Americans grew by more than 40% between 2000 and 2010, Aoki and colleagues write. Non-Hispanic Asian Americans— primarily of Chinese, Asian Indian, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Japanese descent—accounted for 4.9% of the US population in 2012, or 15.4 million people.

The survey revealed that 84.5% of non-Hispanic Asian adults were foreign born. They were younger than non-Hispanic whites; 43.6% were aged 20 to 39, and 19.3% were age 60 and older, compared with 31.4% and 30.0%, respectively.

This data analysis adds to the knowledge of racial and ethnic differences in risk factors for major chronic diseases, the authors summarize. "Note that these estimates are for non-Hispanic Asian persons overall and may not reflect patterns for specific subgroups of Asian persons," they caution.

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