The onset of cardiovascular disease is significantly earlier among south Asians than compared to other world populations. Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when a process known as atherosclerosis develops plaque along the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Plaque buildup can cause angina, the most common symptom of CAD. Angina is chest pain or discomfort resulting from decreased blood supply to the heart muscle and for some people, may be the first symptom of a heart attack.
A heart attack (myocardial infarction) can occur when there is a total or near total occlusion of a major artery feeding the heart muscle. Without appropriate and timely treatment the affected heart muscle may become damaged. Thus, it is important to seek treatment for a heart attack immediately.
The mean age for a heart attack in South Asians in the INTERHEART study was 52 years, compared to ages 60 to 65 years in Europeans and North Americans. Furthermore, individuals of South Asians ancestry have a twofold increased risk for fatal heart attack compared to any other ethnic group. Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscles. This may lead to heart failure, a serious condition where the heart cannot pump blood the way it should. Other symptoms that can occur is arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat.