Scots of South Asian descent have increased risk of heart attacks

October 11, 2017

The good news is that they are also more likely to survive this traumatic event than their non-Asian countrymen.

At the University of Edinburgh, research funded by The Scottish Executive and led by Dr Raj Bhopal and Colin Fischbacher, linked information on individual ethnic groups from the 2001 Census to Scottish hospital discharge and mortality data. One-way encryption techniques, know as 'hashing', were used on the data, to preserve anonymity. The results showed that South Asian men had a 45 percent higher incidence of heart attack, and South Asian women an 80 percent higher chance than the rest of the population.

Previous studies suggested that people of Asian descent have a higher incidence of heart attack than people of other ethnic origins, which is worrying in Scotland, a country internationally notorious for heart disease. The higher survival rate may be due to Asian communities tending to live in the inner cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, potentially enabling them to get to hospital quickly. Increased awareness of heart disease amongst Asian populations may also be a factor.

A person's ethnicity is seldom recorded in UK National Health Service (NHS) records; so investigating how this relates to health has proved difficult on a large scale. The data-handling techniques developed for this study will hopefully overcome the glaring absence of cohort studies reporting by ethnic group in Europe.

"There is an obligation to ensure that potential ethnic inequalities are highlighted so that they can be assessed and addressed," says Bhopal. "We have shown how to innovatively, and anonymously link census and health databases to produce this vital information."


Robert Langer -- former principal investigator for WHI's clinical center at the University of California-San Diego, who has since spoken as a witness for HRT maker Wyeth -- said, "I think that had the initial report been a broader group, as almost all of our later papers have been, it would have been framed differently."

According to the Journal, key questions about long-term use of HRT are "far from resolved." Most experts agree that HRT is a reasonable option for women to treat menopausal symptoms, but the "bigger question" is whether the drugs should be used to prevent heart-related conditions, the Journal reports. NHLBI says that HRT should not be used to prevent heart disease because of its potential to increase risk for breast cancer, blood clots and strokes. According to the health care information company IMS Health, HRT sales have declined 30% since the WHI results were published in 2002 (Wall Street Journal, 7/9).

This article is republished with kind permission from our friends at the The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for Kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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