South Asians: why are they at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease?

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Purpose of reviewWe comment on the high prevalence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in South Asians (SA). The effect of various risk factors, for example biochemical, genetic, lifestyle, socioeconomic factors and psychosocial stress on CVD risk is discussed.Recent findings‘Prediabetes’ is common in SA, but its relationship with coronary artery disease (CAD) is not significant unlike for the white population. At the same time, ‘prediabetes’ in SA is associated with an increased risk for cerebrovascular disease (CeVD). The differentiating factor could be the high lipids in Europeans and their relationship to CAD. Likewise, higher diastolic blood pressure in SA may explain the risk of CeVD. Small, dense, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), low high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C) concentration and high triglycerides may contribute to atherosclerosis. Thrombotic factors such as increased levels of plasminogen activator inhibitor, fibrinogen, lipoprotein (a) and homocysteine have been shown to be associated with increased CVD. Impaired cerebrovascular autoregulation and sympathovagal activity, increased arterial stiffness and endothelial dysfunction may increase CVD risk further. In addition, environmental and dietary factors may exaggerate the unfavourable cardiovascular profile through genetic factors.SummaryThe implications of the findings suggest comprehensive screening of SA for CVD. Cultural differences should be considered while designing prevention strategies specifically targeting barriers for uptake of preventive service.

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