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Study shows medical conditions high among Chicago Chinese population 60-105

by Abby Theodros
Apr 9, 2013

A comprehensive health and well-being report of Chinese older adults in Chicago challenges the common misconception that Chinese elderly have minimal medical issues.

The Pine Report, a collaboration of Rush and Northwestern universities, the Chinese American Service League (CASL) and other community-based organizations, found hypertension, high cholesterol and osteoarthritis to be the three most-common health issues among the 3,018 Chinese between 60 and 105 years old. The report was released this week.

“Its one of the first epidemiological reports done on a specific Asian population, mainly Chinese Americans,” said Director of Illinois Department on Aging John K. Holton. “It’s a report that will help governmental departments like ours, better understand and serve this population.”

Dr. Larry Liu, M.D., a private family practitioner in Chinatown found the study results to fall in line with patterns frequently seen among his older patients.

“High blood pressure, arthritis and diabetes are common issues,” said Dr. Liu.  “A lot of my patients do have high cholesterol as well.”

According to the study, one in four Asian Americans is of Chinese descent and is one of the fastest-growing subpopulations in the U.S. By contrast, most federal health data have been grouped in a much larger and diverse Asian category, meaning empirical data on Chinese is rare.  

“The findings are descriptive statistics. We wanted to describe the basic health care characteristics among elderly Chinese in Chicago.  As simple as it sounds, its never been done,” said Rush Institute for Healthy Aging research associate, Iggy Chang.

Of the varying medical conditions recognized among participants, the most prevalent is hypertension, at a 56 percent identification rate. Hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, causes the heart to work harder in order to circulate blood to the body.

High cholesterol came second at 49 percent and osteoarthritis followed with 39 percent of participants struggling with the condition. 

Diet is a large contributor to the amount of patients dealing with high cholesterol, Liu said.

“Chinese people eat a lot of sea food, which is high in cholesterol. With a salty diet, your blood pressure is also likely to increase,” Dr. Liu said.

According to Dr. Liu, active ways to combat such medical conditions is with a low sodium diet, regular exercise and taking prescribed medication regularly.