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When Race and Ethnicity Matter

September 4, 2016
Plain English Version
A young Indian family play and have fun outdoors in a park on a summers day.

A young Indian family play and have fun outdoors in a park on a summer day.

Black, white, South Asian, Chinese and Hispanic people are not the same. They are different when it comes to health. The difference is likely in the genes.

South Asians come from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and other countries in the region.

A doctor said, “South Asians have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, but no one knows why.”

A study of them is underway It is called Masala. Another study is looking at whites, blacks, Hispanics and Chinese-Americans. It is called Mesa. Both names are initials.

In the first study, scientists followed South Asians who lived in San Francisco.

The people in the study had relatively low body weight.  They were affluent. They had higher rates of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. These risk factors do not explain their higher rates of heart disease.

What scientists know:

  • South Asians are about 60% of the world’s heart-disease patients. In the U.S., they have higher mortality rates from heart disease than whites and other ethnic groups.
  • South Asians have higher diabetes rates than blacks and whites.
  • Early findings show that South Asians have more visceral fat around the abdominal organs. They have more fat in the liver and less lean-muscle mass.
  • South Asians in the U.S. with very traditional cultural beliefs, or those who are the least traditional, have thicker walls of their carotid arteries. That is a risk factor for stroke. Those who hold moderate cultural views have thinner walls.

An expert said genetics is a big factor. Studies will have to look at people in their home countries. They will compare them the to people living in the West. Findings comparing all the groups are coming.

Source: The Wall Street Journal January 25, 2016

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