Women of South Asian descent in Canada are much more prone to heart disease than Canadian women of European or Chinese origin, according to a study.
The study led by Sonia Anand, an assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, was released at Victoria in British Columbia province where an international conference on women and heart disease is being held.
The study is the first to examine cardiac risk factors among women of South Asian descent and has found that they have higher than average rates of diabetes, elevated levels of dangerous low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, lower good or HDL cholesterol and greater abdominal obesity. The study surveyed 155 South Asian, 155 Chinese and 169 European women.
Sixteen percent of the South A
sian women had diabetes compared to only six per cent of Chinese and European women. Cholesterol ratios were significantly worse among the South Asian women and their waist to hip ratio was much greater.
But a few factors weighed in favor of the women of South Asian descent --they had less hypertension (14 per cent) compared to 16 per cent Chinese and 18 per cent European and only two per cent of them smoked, as against six per cent of Chinese and 44 per cent women of European descent.
"There are certain areas where South Asian women do better than other women," Anand said in her presentation. "And there are certain areas where they do worse. But because they have a higher rate of cardiovascular disease prevalence, the areas where they do less well must be considered as potential risk factors."
The high rate of diabetes and abnormal lipids go against the South Asian women. Chinese women have extremely low risk factors in these areas. Anand attributed this to the consumption of more fruit and vegetables by the Chinese women. The vegetables and fruit they consume are "either lightly steamed or eaten raw so they derive more nutritional value from them."
South Asians, however, "make their vegetables into a stew or boil them and this could reduce valuable nutrient components," Anand said. At the conference, health professionals from around the world have come together to discuss the latest in science, policy and practice as they discuss prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of heart disease and strokes in women.
A fact sheet released ahead of the four-day conference said of the 16.7 million deaths each year attributed to cardiovascular diseases, about 11 million are caused by various forms of heart disease and 5.1 million by strokes. By 2020, 40 percent of all deaths will be related to cardiovascular diseases.
Tobacco, participants were told, causes over four million deaths a year, mainly from cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer. An estimated 600 million people worldwide have high blood pressure and three million of them die each year.
Linda Van Horn, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, said according to a study by her, oats are a natural, inexpensive, side-effect free way of unclogging cholesterol-laden arteries. Men, women and children can benefit from the low-fat, high nutrition cereal, but for women going through menopause there are extra benefits.
"Don't save oats just for your cereal bowl," said Rose Schwartz, consulting dietitian to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. "Oats, which are rich in cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, are also terrific for making cookies, quick breads as well as crunchy topping for fruit crisps."