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South Asians in US More Prone to Heart Disease

ch in the School of Nursing, says. "The Doppler machine is less invasive than angiography (which includes injecting a contrast medium into the patient) and can just as easily detect the disease in the early stages."

Dr. Dodani and her colleagues suspected that if a subject had thickening of the carotid arteries, he or she would also have dysfunctional HDL and a polymorphism of the Apo-A1 gene. This is the first time researchers have examined a possible correlation between the gene polymorphisms, dysfunctional HDL and arterial thickness.

Interestingly, 40 percent of the study population had arterial thickness and, among that group, 17 percent had high blood pressure and more than 30 percent had high cholesterol. Half the study population also had dysfunctional HDL. DNA analysis of those blood samples also found six different mutations of Apo-A1.

"This is a strong indicator that these novel polymorphisms, which haven't been found in any previous studies, are linked to dysfunctional HDL," Dr. Dodani says. "These findings support our theory that the disease, in South Asians, is most likely caused by a combination of things - a dysfunctional HDL caused by a genetic polymorphism. Add the stresses of moving, high-stress jobs and high-fat diets and that could explain the high rates in immigrants and not those who stay in their homelands."

The next step, Dr. Dodani says, is expanding the study to include more people. She has applied for National Institutes of Health funding to do that over the next two years and eventually include other populations for comparison.

"Then we will be able to figure out what's next," she says. "If the cause is a combination of this gene mutation and other factors, are there preventive strategies that we can employ? Should cholesterol-lowering drugs be started earlier in certain populations? Those are questions we hope to eventually answer."

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