Cardiovascular Disease

photo of Pravien Khanna MD
Pravien Khanna MD,
RWJBH-New Brunswick
Cardiology Group,
Clinical Assistant Professor,
Rutgers- RWJ Medical School

South Asians represent one fourth of the world’s population and have the highest proportion of cardiovascular disease compared to other ethnicities. According to the results of the 2010 US Census, South Asians currently represent approximately 1% of the US population and are considered among the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States.

blood vessel illustrationheart illustration

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.

Key Statistics

  • The average age for a heart attack among South Asians is 52; compared to ages 60-65 for Europeans and North Americans.
  • South Asians found with heart disease are more likely to have severe multi-vessel involvement than the general population.
  • South Asian diabetic patients have three- to fourfold higher risk of death than European diabetic patients.
  • South Asians have one of the fastest growing rates for metabolic syndrome and diabetes in the world. Approximately 20% to 25% of all South Asians worldwide may have metabolic syndrome.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) the conventional measure for obesity, grossly underestimates the percent body fat of South Asians.
  • Epidemiologic studies suggest that South Asians are predisposed to developing obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

South Asian Heart Disease Prevention Guidelines

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Key Links and Website Resources


The purpose of the South Asian Total Health Initiative is to improve the delivery  of culturally responsive, family-centered care to diverse populations. SATHI provides technical assistance/consultation, education/training, and research/evaluation services. SATHI does not provide medical advice or clinical professional services. Any medical assistance or other decisions should be made in consultation with your physicians. Rutgers University will not be liable for any complications, injuries, or other medical accidents arising from or in connection with the use of or reliance upon any information obtained from this website or on the Internet.