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Physical activity reduces heart disease in South Asian community

New research has identified that physical activity could play a major role in reducing the high level of death rates from heart disease among South Asian people in the UK.

The research, recently published in the British Medical Journal publication Heart, found that South Asian participants were three times more likely to die from heart disease. The study claims physical inactivity accounted for 20 per cent of this increased risk.

Importance for people with diabetes

The study was carried out by researchers at University College London and funded by the National Prevention Research Initiative (which is partly funded by Diabetes UK). It examined 15,000 participants aged 35 years old or older over six years to investigate how physical activity can increase the risk of heart disease in the UK South Asian population.

South Asian participants were found to have an elevated risk of dying from heart disease and were found to be more likely to have a heart attack 10 years earlier than White participants. In addition South Asian participants were found to be three times less likely to undertake any exercise in comparison to the White participants, even when the researchers took into account other factors that could impact on cardiovascular disease risk. These included diabetes, smoking and socioeconomic position. The researchers suggest this lack of activity could explain a large proportion of the elevated risk of heart attacks and heart disease seen in the South Asian population.

The results indicated that physical activity has a protective effect against heart disease in both White and South Asian people in the UK.

Helping those at risk

Diabetes UK’s Head of Research, Dr Victoria King, said, "This research reinforces that physical activity can have a positive impact on a person’s health. What is interesting however is the role physical inactivity could play in South Asian people and this research underlines the importance of promoting physical activity with these people.

"South Asian people are up to six times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes so we welcome any research that will help us understand more about how we can prevent those at risk from developing any of the long-term diabetes complications."

Future research

Diabetes UK has awarded Dr Emily Williams, co-author of this research, a Diabetes UK Moffat Travelling Fellowship to help her conduct further research in this area. Using data from Australia and the UK, Dr Williams will examine the psychological, social and behavioural reasons for the development and progression of Type 2 diabetes as well as addressing the socioeconomic and ethnic inequalities in diabetes risk.

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