Heart disease study at UCSF focuses on South Asians

October 20, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO: South Asians represent a quarter of the world’s population and are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States. Given this, South Asians account for a striking number – 60% – of the world’s heart disease patients.

Investigators at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Northwestern University are conducting a new study sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health to better understand the causes of heart disease in South Asians.

The study is called Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) and its purpose is to identify new and emerging risk factors that may guide future treatments to prevent or cure heart disease in South Asians.

Alka M. Kanaya, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, at the University of California in San Francisco told India Post, “We are trying to figure out what causes the phenomenon that South Asians have a higher risk of heart disease. We know that South Asians may have four times the risk of heart disease than other ethnic groups, but we don’t know why they are at a higher risk.

Very few studies have been done in large enough South Asian groups following them over time. We hope that the MASALA study will shed light on novel risk factors to prevent heart disease in South Asians.”

As a physician researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Kanaya and her team focus on research to understand heart disease among South Asians. In 2006-2007, Dr. Kanaya recruited 150 Asian Indians from the Bay Area and compared their risk factors to that of four major U.S. ethnic groups.

The results of that study were that despite having higher educational attainment and low overall body weight, Asian Indians had higher rates of diabetes and early measures of atherosclerosis (thickening of arteries) than Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Chinese Americans.

As a result of the pilot study, Dr. Kanaya received a larger grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a cohort of South Asian Americans the study will follow over years to better understand unique cultural, biological, lifestyle, and genetic factors that contribute to heart disease among South Asians.

The strength of the MASALA study is that it is linked to a large U.S. study of four different ethnic groups-the MESA study. The South Asians in MASALA will be compared to Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Chinese Americans in the MESA study to see if South Asians are truly different in risk of disease than other ethnic groups.

A participant in the pilot study said, “The study enlightened me about my body and lifestyle, and allowed me to make meaningful changes with confidence. All my questions were answered while recognizing my Indo-American background with its unique dietary and health challenges. It may well be the kind of medical care you may not get anywhere, at any price!”

The MASALA study is being conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area and greater Chicago area on a random sample of 900 South Asians. To be able to participate in this study, you must receive an invitational letter in the mail at your home. If your household has been selected to participate, please call the MASALA Research team in your area to check if any member of your family is eligible to participate.

Look for your invitational letter in the mail and don’t pass up your opportunity to participate if your household has been selected. More information about the study can be found at www.masalastudy.org.

Kavita Arora
India Post News Service
Kavita Arora is Anchor & Co-Producer of Sitaarre TV