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Ethnicity & Heart Failure!

Your ethnicity can increase your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases. If you’re South Asian, African, or African Caribbean in the UK, your risk of developing some heart and circulatory diseases can be higher than white Europeans. The issue that I found is that it’s common for heart failure to run as an invisible health condition, I have heart failure on both sides of my family & sometimes you find out when it’s too late, but what we don't know is why we are at an increased risk.

How does my ethnicity affect my risk of heart and circulatory diseases?

Research shows that in the UK:

  • if you're South Asian, you're more likely to develop coronary heart disease than white Europeans.

  • if you're African or African Caribbean, you're at higher risk of developing high blood pressure and having a stroke than other ethnic groups.

  • Africans, African Caribbean's and South Asians are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than the rest of the population.

There isn't a clear answer as to why there's an increased risk. Genetics likely play a part, but lifestyle choices can also affect this.

The British Heart Foundation has some information and tips on how to reduce your risk of heart and circulatory diseases, you can find the links below:

How does having an African or African Caribbean background increase my risk?

If you're African or African Caribbean in the UK you're at higher risk of developing high blood pressure and having a stroke than other ethnic groups. You also have a greater chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

There isn't a clear answer to why you may be at increased risk. Genetics may play a part, but your lifestyle choices can play a big role too.

How does having a South Asian background increase my risk?

If you’re South Asian in the UK, you’re more likely to develop coronary heart disease than white Europeans. Coronary heart disease can develop when fatty material builds up in your arteries (the blood vessels that carry oxygen rich blood to your organs). If the arteries carrying blood to your heart get damaged and clogged, it can lead to a heart attack. If this happens in the arteries that carry blood to your brain it can lead to a stroke.

According to an article shared by the American Heart Association News in March 2020, 'Not all black ethnic groups are the same when it comes to cardiovascular risks'

The preliminary study at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions in Phoenix, sought to separate risk factors among black ethnic groups in the U.S. by comparing African Americans, African immigrants, Afro-Caribbean's and white people. Statistics already show cardiovascular risk factors impact black people at disproportionate levels. Their rate of high blood pressure is among the highest in the world, and compared to white people, have lower rates of regular physical activity and higher rates of diabetes and poor diet. For the new study, researchers looked at data from more than 450,000 black and white U.S. adults from 2010 to 2018 and focused on four risk factors: diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking. The study showed several disparities among black ethnic groups.

Below is also an extract from an article written by Amitava Banerjee (Oxford Medicine):

Due to population ageing, demographic changes, and improving therapies for cardiovascular diseases, heart failure is a major and growing cause of morbidity and mortality all over the world. Ethnicity is ‘the social group that a person belongs to or is perceived to belong to, as a result of a mix of cultural and other factors including language, diet, religion, ancestry and physical features traditionally associated with race’. This chapter reviews the potential implications of ethnicity on practical approaches to management of heart failure, from primordial prevention through to tertiary prevention. Consensus definitions of ethnicity and their use in research and clinical practice make cross-population comparison challenging. Any conclusions regarding the associations between ethnicity and heart failure and resulting practical interventions are greatly limited by a lack of contemporary, population-based data. Significant differences exist within and across populations on the basis of ethnicity. The majority of these differences are likely to be explained by differences in socioeconomic or risk factor profile, or both, rather than the genetic differences alone. Every population has a different level of ethnic diversity and may require tailored solutions to the management challenges of heart failure in different ethnic groups. Local and contemporary data as well as definitions of specific ethnic groups are required in order to tackle ethnic disparities in heart failure.

Share your views and thoughts...

If you are aged 40 - 74 you can ask for an NHS Health Check in England only, but similar schemes are available in other parts of the UK

SOURCE: British Heart Foundation - Ethnicity

British Heart Foundation - African and African Caribbean background

British Heart Foundation - South Asian background

Oxford Medicine Online - Ethnicity and heart failure

NHS - NHS Health Check


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