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Diabetes Increasing Significantly Among Asian Americans

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Nearly 2 million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 alone, and diabetes is significantly increasing among one ethic group in particular: Asian Americans. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

Mei Hsien Wang emigrated to the United States from Taiwan in her 50s, and a new country brought a different lifestyle and food choices.

"In China, I eat very simple," she says.

While Wang tried for the most part to continue healthy eating habits in New York, she was still diagnosed with diabetes when she was 84, five years ago.

"The nurse said my blood sugar is very high," she says. "[It] scared me."

It has become a common diagnosis in the Asian community, affecting about 10 percent of the population, even impacting those with what is considered "normal" body weight.

A 2009 report by the New York City Health Department found that diabetes has increased most rapidly among Asians.

"I think before, the population is the elderly, but recent years, the patient group is getting more younger," says Li Chen, a nurse consultant with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

Studies show that the diabetes pattern among Asian Americans has little to do with socioeconomic status, as with other ethnic groups.

Chen says poor diet and little exercise are the main factors.

"In China, we eat more vegetables and more fruit than red meat," she says. "When we move here, all the cheese and milk, and everything changes."

Chen says the key to a healthier lifestyle for most Asians living in America could be found simply by looking to their roots.

"My good friend said, 'You are a berry lady.' Blueberry, strawberry, raspberry," Wang says.

Wang also makes healthy snacks, like whole wheat bread and honey, and she's cut red meats and pork out of her diet.

Now, her blood sugar levels are healthy, and she doesn't need insulin shots.

Wang says she hopes to pass on her healthy habits to her children and grandchildren, which include Queens Rep. Grace Meng, so they won't have to shoulder the burden of diabetes.

"Vegetables and fruit, always keep happy," she says.

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