Heart condition

research has shown that south Asians living in Canada have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular problems when compared to other ethnic races such as Chinese and Europeans. The cardiovascular problems taken into consideration included conditions such as angina, impairment of cardiac muscles, and prior cardiac surgery.

Sonia Anand and her team at the McMaster University, Canada, tried to explain why the mortality due to heart problems was higher among south Asians. Europeans had fewer deaths due to heart problems than Asians while Chinese had the lowest death rates. Around 1,000 people from three cities in Canada participated the study. They were in the age group of 35 to 75 years and had lived in Canada for more than five years. Ancestry was used to identify the ethnic races. Most south Asians were of Indian origin.

Generally, obstructions in the arteries are used to predict the risk of heart problems but even when Europeans were found to have a higher number of obstructions, the had a lower death rates as compared to south Asians. Prevalence of obstructed arteries was 11 per cent in south Asians, five per cent in Europeans and two per cent in Chinese.

Other conventional risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, diabetes and raised cholesterol could also not explain the differences in death rates amongst the races. This made the researchers take into account other factors such as the activity of enzymes, which affect the dissolution of blood clots. The tests also revealed that most south Asians had diabetes, higher amount of bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, more fats and lower blot clot dissolving factors. "Diabetes increases the risk of getting heart diseases by 20-25 per cent,' says Rajeev Lochan of the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi.

The major implications of the study, according to the researchers, are that ethnicity or some unmeasured factors linked to ethnicity might increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The study also points out that European data cannot be extrapolated on ethnic races and there is a need to collect ethnic specific data. Finding out the unique risk factors in the ethnic races would be helpful in finding out strategies for control of cardiac diseases.

"The study emphasises that genes are not the reason behind higher incidence of cardiac problems,' says H S Wasir, chief cardiologist at the Batra Hospital and Medical Research Centre, New Delhi. "Lifestyle and environment are the reasons behind the rise,' he adds. Migration has been indicated as having a role in the changing the risk factors and the immigrants generally take up the characteristic of their host country. On the other hand, the present study shows that such risks are linked to ethnicity. Thus, it is necessary to carry out further research to identify other risk factors involved in the process.

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