Southeast Asians Have Highest Risk for Heart Attacks
By Dr. Sattar Abbasi
Pailos Verdes Estates, CA

A few years ago one of my family members had a heart attack at 50 years of age. I was shocked, especially because, at least at the time, there did not appear to be any reason why he would have a heart attack at such a young age. But then I learnt that Pakistani and Indians have more extensive coronary artery disease, at a much younger age, than people in other parts of the world.
The incidence is even higher for Southeast Asians who migrate to Europe or the USA! The reason is partly genetics and partly due to their lifestyle.
But the good news is that lifestyle changes can correct or dampen the effect of genes.
So what should we do? First assess your risk for coronary artery disease. The risk factors which influence heart disease are:
1. Age over 45 years in males and 55 years in females.
2. High blood pressure greater than 130/80mmHg, especially higher than 140/85.
3. High bad cholesterol (LDL): greater than 130mg and low good cholesterol (HDL): less than 40mg. High triglycerides: more than 150mg.
4. Smoking.
5. Diabetes mellitus
6. Family history of heart disease before age 55 years in males and 65 years in females.
7. Obesity, especially truncal, i.e. waist more than 38” in males and 36” in females or abdominal girth more than hips. This is part of the so-called “metabolic syndrome” which increases the risk of coronary artery disease.
If you have two or more of the above risk factors, you have a higher chance of having a heart attack. But you can decrease the risk by changing your lifestyle.
Of course, we cannot pre-select our parents, but we can significantly modify the effects of our genes. How this can be done will be discussed in my next column.
(Dr. Sattar Abbasi is on the national faculty of the American Heart Association’s Heart Disease Prevention Program. He can be contacted at


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.