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Tuesday, 21 November, 2000, 01:05 GMT
Ethnic heart disease gulf widens
asian women walking
Asian women continue to be at high risk of CHD
Inequalities in heart disease between South Asian people living in the UK and the rest of the population are growing, despite national efforts to tackle the problem.

Early deaths from coronary heart disease among Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans are around 50% higher than the UK average.

And, although the death rate among South Asians is falling, it is falling more slowly - particularly among women.

New statistics from the British Heart Foundation reveal that, while the heart disease death rate in women under 70 fell by 17% overall, it dropped just 7% in South Asian women.

There are striking variations between risk factors for heart disease between the different ethnic groups.

Ethnicity and CHD
Mortality for men fell 29% between 1971 and 1991
Mortality for Asian men fell 20%
Mortality for women fell 17% between 1971 and 1991
Mortality for Asian women fell 7%
40% of Indian men drink more than once a week
0% of Bangladeshi women drink more than once a week
69% of white men drink more than once a week
46% of white women drink more than once a week
For example, rates of diabetes, which is strongly linked to heart disease, are much higher in people of South Asian origin.

Around half of Bangladeshi men smoke, though virtually no Bangladeshi women.

Bangladeshi women also consume no alcohol and alcohol consumption across all South Asian groups is generally low compared to the white population.

A BHF spokeswoman said it seems that South Asian people "have adopted the worst of British culture and abandoned the best of their own".

Poor targeting

And, she said, until now there have been problems in targeting information accurately at ethnic groups at risk.

"In terms of physical activity, for example, Asian women will need to be advised to take exercise that doesn't involve showing their body such as walking, or making segregated swimming areas available."


Further initiatives to prevent CHD, diagnose it earlier and treat it more effectively are all urgently needed to reduce the numbers of South Asians dying from heart disease in the UK

Qaim Zaidi, British Heart Foundation
BHF ethnic strategy co-ordinator, Qaim Zaidi pointed out that many cases of coronary heart disease are preventable, being related to high cholesterol levels, smoking and lack of exercise.

"Further initiatives to prevent CHD, diagnose it earlier and treat it more effectively are all urgently needed to reduce the numbers of South Asians dying from heart disease in the UK," he said.

The Health Development Agency is about to launch a report which examines the cultural values and social pressures in relation to tobacco use in different ethnic communities.

Its head of public health advice, Karen Ford, said: "We need to be able to reach these people at high risk and one of the most important things is to ask the people themselves what it is they need.

"Interventions need to be culturally appropriate so we need to look at what it is that makes people smoke or adopt a particular lifestyle."

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