South Asians in Canada face increased risk of diseases

South Asians, including people from India, living in Canada have a higher rate of heart disease and double the rate of diabetes compared with Caucasian people, says a study co-authored by an Indian-origin researcher.

Toronto: South Asians, including people from India, living in Canada have a higher rate of heart disease and double the rate of diabetes compared with Caucasian people, says a study co-authored by an Indian-origin researcher.

South Asians - people from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh - comprise about three percent of the Canadian population.

"Our findings emphasise the need to develop a standardised surveillance system for non-communicable diseases, such as CVD (cardio-vascular disease), cancer and lung diseases, by ethnic groups in Canada," said Sonia Anand, a professor of medicine at McMaster University in Canada.

To understand the risk of heart disease in this population, the researchers looked at data from 50 studies conducted in Canada between 1979 and 2007 that included more than 5.8 million people.

People of South Asian background have a higher prevalence of heart disease (5.7-10 percent) compared with Caucasian people (5.4-5.7 percent), the findings showed.

The rate of death from coronary artery disease was also higher: 42 percent for South Asian men compared with 29 percent for Caucasian men and 29 percent versus 19 percent for women.

South Asian people are also more likely to have diabetes and hypertension than white people, the study noted.

When the authors compared South Asians with white people of the same body size, South Asians had higher percentages of body fat, abdominal fat and South Asian women had a higher waist-to-hip ratio. These factors are all considered to be key risk factors for heart disease.

"Given the increased prevalence and mortality associated with CVD among South Asian people living in Canada, studies to understand the development of these risk factors among children and the youth as well as intervention strategies to reduce the risk of these factors are needed," said co-author Scott Lee from the Simon Fraser University in Canada.

The study appeared in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.