TUESDAY, Jan. 16, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- South Asians suffer heart attacks at a younger age than people in western countries because they have higher levels of risk factors -- such as smoking and diabetes -- at a younger age.
That's the conclusion of a study published in the Jan. 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Deaths caused by cardiovascular disease occur five to 10 years earlier among people in South Asia than among people in Western nations, according to background information in the study. South Asian nations include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Researchers at the Government Medical College in Nagpur, India examined data on 1,732 heart-attack patients and 2,204 controls from 15 medical centers in five South Asian countries, and 10,728 heart-attack patients and 12,431 controls from other countries.
The study found that the average age for first heart attack in South Asia was 53 years, compared to 58.8 years in other western countries.
South Asians were much less likely to have lifestyle habits that helped protect against heart attack, such as daily intake of fruits and vegetables and leisure time physical activity.
Heart-attack risk factors such as current and former smoking, a history of diabetes, a history of hypertension, depression, and work/home stress were much more common among South Asians than among people in other countries.
Overall, South Asians had more heart-attack risk factors at ages younger than 60 years, the study said.
"The younger the age of first (heart attack) among the South Asian cases in our study appears to be largely explained by the higher prevalence of risk factors in native South Asians," the study authors wrote. "These data suggest that lifestyle changes implemented early in life have the potential to substantially reduce the risk of (heart attack) in South Asians."
The American Heart Association has more about heart disease risk factors.