heart disease among south asians

Race is a social construct but the impact and influence race still holds is all too real. It is often assumed that perceived genetic similarities is equivalent to race categories – however, much of these perceived genetic similarities tend to be focused on the phenotype. Additionally, this connection between genetics and race has led to many racist occurrences. For example, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study where African American men with syphilis were studied. These men were never told that they even had syphilis and they weren’t given medicine once the medicine became available. Another example is craniometry where skull-size and intelligence were falsely correlated to reaffirm a racial hierarchy. The relationship with health manifests itself in many ways. There does seem to be some sort of relationship between race and health, as in some races are more prone to getting X disease than others. However, this most likely has more to do with social and environmental factors than these categories. There are also large health disparities between races and ethnic groups, especially in terms of treatment and care.SMR

I identify as South Asian. Although heart disease/CAD is the leading cause of death for both men and women (CDC), CAD occurs earlier in South Asians as well as the fact that it affects a higher percentage of the South Asian population than other ethnic groups (Boston Scientific). Additionally, South Asian immigrants have high mortality rates for heart disease (Chaturvedi). The figure to the right compares standardized mortality ratios (SMR) for heart disease and stroke amongst South Asians, African Caribbeans, and Europeans (Chaturvedi). In comparison to Europeans, South Asians have higher levels of glucose intolerance, central obesity, fasting triglyceride, and insulin ergo it is believed that these factors may have something to do with the higher mortality rates from CAD with South Asians (Chaturvedi). Additionally, all these factors are associated with insulin resistance syndrome so it could be this that accounts for the data. However, there really hasn’t been enough research done to create a definitive link between the two. This predisposition to insulin resistance syndrome is unclear as well. Another factor that may have some role in CAD susceptibility is the circulation of lipoprotein Lp(a); South Asians have higher circulations of Lp(a) than Europeans (Chaturvedi). As with insulin resistance syndrome, it is unclear why Lp(a) circulation has an impact on CAD susceptibility – all we know is that there is a correlation there. Additionally, dietary factors play a role in CAD susceptibility – South Asian diets consist of ghee (or clarified fat). Too much ghee intake could increase CAD risks. Based off of this, CAD susceptibility within the South Asian community seems to involve both genetic and social factors.


“Heart Disease Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 07 July 2014. Web. July 2014.

Chaturvedi, Nish. “Ethnic Differences in Cardiovascular Disease.” Heart 89.6 (2003): 681-86. National Center for Biotechnology Information. NCBI, Dec. 2005. Web. July 2014.

“South Asian Americans* and Cardiovascular Disease.” Boston Scientific. Boston Scientific. Web. July 2014.

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