Major Risk Factors
While genetics does play a role in a person's risk for disease, there are several other factors that can be modified to decrease one's risk. Studies have shown the majority of heart attacks occurring in South Asians can be attributed to one of the risk factors listed below. And, an estimated 50 percent of South Asians have a dangerous combination of these risk factors resulting in a condition called metabolic syndrome.
Many South Asians work in occupations with sedentary environments where they sit at a desk all day. In addition, they may not have a regular fitness routine. This lack of physical activity contributes to an increased risk for diabetes and heart disease.
South Asians who live in the United States commonly gain weight due to a consumption of a high-calorie diet rich in saturated fats. South Asian diets, particularly those that are vegetarian, are also rich in refined carbohydrates such as white rice and various types of breads.
South Asians are already at a very high risk of heart attack based on several risk factors. However, a South Asian who smokes is in the highest risk category for heart disease and should make quitting his or her number one priority. Smoking is one of the strongest known risk factors for having a heart attack and is unfortunately a prevalent habit among South Asians. Some South Asian men view smoking as a form of identity and social bonding, which perpetuates this deadly habit. (Note: Bidis and chewing tobacco are also associated with these health risks.)
Quitting by willpower alone can be challenging, so the following options should be considered:
- Over-the-counter nicotine replacement products (such as gum or patches)
- Prescription medications like Zyban and Chantix can help curb tobacco cravings and should be discussed with your physician.
A large study involving South Asians found that psychosocial factor, such as stress and depression, are on a list of nine major risk factors for heart attack. For many South Asian immigrants, excessive stress results from the financial, social and family pressures of trying to integrate into a completely different environment.
Exercise, meditation and yoga are a few excellent ways to cope with stress. Mindfulness-based meditation is also a great technique to help reduce stress and can be easily incorporated into a busy schedule. We offer a variety of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes.
Last reviewed: 2012