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South Asians in US More Prone to Heart Disease

Washington: South Asian immigrants in America have a higher risk of heart disease than any other segment of the American population, according to a new study led by an// Indian American doctor.

The trouble, Medical College of Georgia (MCG) researchers suspect, is that their high-density lipoprotein, or so-called good cholesterol, doesn't protect many of them like it should and their new lifestyle makes that situation worse.

"Research shows that while only 9 percent of whites develop coronary artery disease, between 18 and 25 percent of South Asian immigrants eventually develop it," says Dr. Sunita Dodani, MCG epidemiologist and cardiologist. "Interestingly, South Asians who live in their homelands have normal rates of the disease."

In most South Asians, dysfunctional HDL, first identified by the historic Framingham Heart Study, is likely caused by a mutation of Apo-A1, the gene responsible for coding the major protein component of HDL, Dr. Dodani says.

"HDL can only protect people from heart disease if it's functional," she explains. "The dysfunctional HDL and external risk factors like stress from moving and new jobs and high-fat diets make for a deadly combination."

Since joining MCG in October, Dr. Dodani, a South Asian immigrant herself, and collaborators at MCG and the University of California (UCLA) at Los Angeles have been studying 29 Augusta immigrants, looking for a connection between the gene mutation and dysfunctional HDL.

Blood samples were sent to UCLA to determine whether each subject had dysfunctional HDL. DNA sequencing helped researchers look for mutations of Apo-A1 and a portable carotid Doppler machine measured the thickness of carotid arteries, an indicator of impending coronary artery disease.

"Recent research has shown that thickening of the carotid arteries is directly related to thickening of the coronary arteries," Dr. Dodani, the new assistant dean for resear
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