South Asians More Prone to Heart Attacks Than Whites

By Venkata Vemuri

London, Jun 29 (IANS): The incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD) is higher among the South Asian communities of Britain than the white population, a new research by the British Heart Foundation and Oxford University has revealed.

The prevalence of CHD is highest in Indian (six per cent) and Pakistani (eight per cent) men, it says.

The details of the new research were released Monday exclusively to the BBC Asian Network which broadcast a half hour programme on the subject the same evening.

Cardio-vascular diseases cause more than a third of all deaths in England and Wales in a year. A quarter of these deaths are of the South Asian communities, the research says.

Though binge drinking is low in the South Asian communities, the prevalence of smoking is quite high. Twenty per cent of all Indians men here smoke. So do 40 per cent of Bangladeshi men. It ranges from two per cent among Bangladeshi women to 26 per cent among the Irish.

The results of the research are published by the Heart Foundation under the title, "Stroke Statistics; European Cardiovascular Disease Statistic: Regional and Social Differences in Coronary Heart Disease; Diet, Physical Activity and Obesity".

The study could not find any satisfactory reasons for the CHD affecting South Asian more even though their Body Mass Index (BMI) was found to be much lower than the local white population, while the ethnic groups fared better than the white population in terms of physical activity, lower cholesterol, balanced diet and controlled blood pressure.

According to the researchers, since the above-mentioned normal risk factors for CHD did not apply much to the South Asians, the reasons for high prevalence of the disease among them could be due to "differences in genetic make-up and differences in cultural and social practices between ethnic groups that might influence their risk of developing cardiovascular disease".

On the issue of timely treatment of South Asians with CHD, the study says that "at present, very few people from ethnic minority groups attend cardiac rehabilitation programmes".

The study finds the reason for this inequality in treatment and rehabilitation: "Until recently, regular coding of ethnic data in the National Health Service (NHS) was either inconsistent or not practiced." Since 2001 it has been a requirement to ethnically code all admissions to NHS hospitals and thus by 2007-08 only 15 per cent of ethnic admissions were found not coded. This means the NHS does not have records of many South Asian CHD patients for follow-up treatment.

The study also finds that admissions of South Asian CHD patients to NHS hospitals for surgical treatment are lower than that of white patients. Even in case of revascularization and admission to heart rehabilitation programmes, the study shows the admissions of the ethnic groups is less than that of the white population.

The medical director of the British Heart Foundation, Prof. Peter Weissberg says that the publication of this new research "is timely as the government and political parties in England consider the next steps for tackling health inequalities in the coming decade".

The research was conducted by researchers Prof. Peter Scarborough, Asha Kaur, Kate Smolina and Mike Rayner of the department of public health, Oxford University and Prachi Bhatnagar, and Kremlin Wickramasinghe of the Foundation's Health Promotion Research Group.


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