Asian Americans are at higher risk for stroke and hypertension compared to whites, according to a study examining U.S. death records from 2003–2010.
Although heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans, certain races and ethnic groups face higher cardiovascular risk than others. Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States, yet little is known about heart risks in distinct subgroups of the Asian American population.
Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a recent study analyzed death records for the six largest Asian-American subgroups: Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. Together, these subgroups make up 84% of the Asians in the United States.
After comparing U.S. death rates from 2003–2010, researchers found that stroke and high blood pressure was more common among every Asian American subgroup compared to non-Hispanic whites. Compared to whites, Asian Indians and Filipino men also had greater mortality from coronary artery disease—a condition that occurs when the heart’s arteries narrow, often due to the plaque build-up on the arterial walls. (text taken from http://www.cardiosmart.com)
Until further studies clarify the specific reasons for elevated risk in Asian Americans, the goals for prevention in this population are similar to all adults, with a few areas of emphasis:
1. Blood Pressure Control – monitoring blood pressure – .and prompt treatment of elevated readings – it is important for all adults, but in Asian American’s we may need to emphasize more thorough monitoring, and consider intervention ( either lifestyle changes or medications) at an earlier age or with lower blood pressure targets. Here is more information.
2. Manage Your Cholesterol – in recent years we have certainly learned more about specific changes of cholesterol in the Asian population. For example, here is an article I co-authored which looked at specific cholesterol findings in Indian Americans. Even though the spectrum of specific cholesterol abnormalities vary among the various agents are groups, the lifestyle advice to minimize the impact is universal: Reduce intake of saturated fats, processed grains, and minimize wheat based carbohydrates. Here is more information.
3. Stop smoking and minimize tobacco exposure. Hopefully the impact here is self-explanatory. Here is additional information.
4. Monitor Blood Sugar – Type 2 (or “adult onset”) diabetes is far more common in certain Asian populations (such as Indians), especially those that have moved to Western countries that eat highly processed diets. In many Asians, diabetes can develop even in the absence of the usual weight gain (e.g. abdominal fat) typical in other populations. Ask your physician about screening recommendations for those at risk of diabetes.
4. Stay Active! Regular readers of our blog should be well versed in the many benefits of the ultimate medical therapy: Regular exercise. Here is an overview of the benefits of exercise, and here is even more information.
For now, the screening recommendations for prevention of heart disease and stroke in Asian Americans are no different from the population at large. However, there is some evidence that certain screening tools may benefit certain populations. These include advanced blood testing and imaging to screen for early coronary plaque. If you are concerned about your risk, you should ask your physician whether additional screening may be useful. or even consider calculating your very own “Heart Age”. In the meantime, clinical studies are providing more and more information about cardiovascular risk in this growing segment of Americans.