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Wednesday, 28 April, 1999, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
Indians 'genetically prone to heart disease'
Indian Asians
Indian Asians are more prone to heart disease
People of Indian origin living in the UK may be genetically more prone to coronary heart disease, researchers have said.

The rate of coronary heart disease among this community - particularly in young men - is up to twice as high as that in whites.

But people of Indian origin are less likely to smoke, or to have high cholesterol or blood pressure levels than whites.

Researchers from Hammersmith and Ealing Hospitals compared the way cells in a major artery function in 26 healthy people of Indian origin and 18 white men aged 35-60 who had no heart disease.

The researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Heart, measured the ability of the cells that line the brachial artery to expand and contract according to blood flow.

They found that the cells were less effective in people of Indian origin regardless of the levels of glucose, insulin or cholesterol in the blood.

Previous research has indicated that a substance called nitric oxide, which is released from the endothelial cells, keeps the artery in good condition by stimulating the production of muscle in its wall.

The researchers conclude that nitric oxide activity may be impaired in people of Indian origin compared with whites.

This could lead to tissue damage in the artery walls, creating the potential for inflammation and the formation of life-threatening clots.

Diet may be a factor

Blood pressure
High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease
Lead researcher Dr Jaspal Kooner, of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Hammersmith Hospital, said more research was needed to identify whether the increased risk to people of Indian origin was genetic or due to another as yet unidentified risk factor.

People of Indian origin have a greater tendency than whites to suffer from diabetes, said Dr Kooner, but that alone could not explain the difference in endothelial cell function.

He said it was possible that diet may play a factor. An amino acid known as homocystine, which is manufactured by the body from animal protein, is thought by some scientists to be linked to heart disease.

"We are examining the genetic basis of coronary heart disease and the possibility of a dietary component," he said.

"It is important that doctors are even more vigilant and aggressive in their treatment of known risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes in the Indian Asian community as it is known that there is an interplay between all the risk factors."

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