Kenyans in US report high levels of diabetes and hypertension

Kenyan diasporaNAIROBI: Kenyans living in the US are developing diabetes and hypertension at a high rate as they increasingly adopt the lifestyles of their host country.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota, US, investigated groups of African immigrants to the US to find out whether they were exposed to factors that could lead to heart disease, the highest killer of Americans today. The team investigated 996 African immigrants in the US, from Kenyan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Liberia and Sudan, living in Minnesota.

In the study published in the scientific journal BMC Public Health on Wednesday, Kenyans and Liberians were more likely to report having diabetes or hypertension than immigrants from the other countries. Although more than half of the Kenyans were found to be overweight or obese, Liberians were much heavier.

However, being aware of the health complications posed by obesity, the authors said, Kenyans are among African immigrants making a deliberate effort to eat healthy meals and engage in physical activities.


Sudanese were less likely to report a conscious effort to exercise, less likely to report a conscious effort to eat a healthy diet and less likely to report being overweight or obese.

“Sudanese were less likely to be overweight or obese while Kenyanswere more likely to be told they were diabetic or hypertensive compared to Somalis,” wrote the authors.

Immigrants who have been in the US for longer were most likely to be diabetic or hypertensive, conditions that are risk factors for heart disease.

Individuals that reported living in the US for over five years were more likely to be classified as overweight or obese, while individuals with no health insurance were less likely to be classified as overweight or obese.

Those without insurance, the study said, were unlikely to have much contact with health care systems and hence may remain ignorant of their health status. However, the researchers said the rates of hypertension and obesity, while worrying, were much lower than those found in the indigenous white population.

Smoking was found to be low in the group of immigrants, with Kenya having the least number of smokers, which is a good health indicator. On the negative side, the research found very few people in this group made deliberate efforts to engage in physical activities.

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