Lack of support adds to heart disease burden for South Asian-Canadians

    Quebec City, Oct. 23 /CNW Telbec/ - South Asian-Canadians who have heart
disease don't get as much emotional support as their Caucasian counterparts,
and this may be putting their heart health further at risk, according to a
study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2007, co-hosted by the
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.
    Individuals of South Asian origin - from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and
Sri Lanka - who are already at an increased risk for heart disease, were much
less likely to get financial help or any other kind of tangible support after
they were diagnosed with heart disease compared with Caucasian Canadians,
according to lead researcher Keerat Grewal, a graduate student at York
    They also were a lot less likely to get a warm hug or other show of
affection or emotional support from their family or friends.
    "Emotional support is important to all of us but it can be critical to
the health of people with heart disease," says Dr. Beth Abramson, Heart and
Stroke Foundation spokesperson and a cardiologist.
    The findings surprised the researchers. "We always thought that South
Asians would have a lot of social support, lots of family rallying round, and
so on, because their culture emphasizes community and affiliation, so when we
did our analysis, we were really surprised," says Grewal.
    Grewal and her colleagues studied 509 Caucasian patients and 53 South
Asian patients from three different hospitals across Ontario. All of the
patients had acute coronary syndrome (ACS), a constellation of cardiac
symptoms, including angina, or chest pain, and reduced blood flow to the
heart, usually caused by a narrowed or blocked heart artery.
    The patients completed a survey while they were still in the hospital,
and then nine and 18 months later, which asked them about their tangible,
emotional, informational and social support.
    "We asked them questions, such as 'Do you feel you have someone who can
show you love and affection, who can hug you and make you feel worthy?' 'Do
you have someone who can give you other tangible support,'" explains Grewal.
    The lower levels of social support among South Asians with heart disease
may have negative effects on their prognosis, she says. "We know from other
studies that low social support is linked to increased mortality in Hispanic
American heart disease patients. I would like to see further studies to see
whether the same is true for South Asians in this country."
    It is also known that South Asian Canadians are less likely to attend
cardiac rehabilitation programs than are other Canadians. Ms. Grewal says it's
important to find out why these inequities exist so that ways to address them
can be found.
    "There might be barriers that South Asian cardiac patients face, such as
the distance from extended family, or even a lack of health information in
their first language, which might negatively affect support in this
population," she commented.
    "The Heart and Stroke Foundation recognizes that South Asians need more
information on heart health and has recently developed resources in Tamil,
Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi," says Dr. Abramson.
    "South Asians are a large population in Canada and they suffer
disproportionately from heart disease compared to the general population.
Being aware of the problem is the first step in solving it. While we may not
be able to provide the affectionate support, we can provide better emotional
support and enhance their access to information," Grewal concludes.

    Multi-lingual resources are available on the Foundation's web site at

    Statements and conclusions of study authors are solely those of the study
authors and do not necessarily reflect Foundation policy or position. The
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada makes no representation or warranty as
to their accuracy or reliability.

    The Heart and Stroke Foundation (, a
volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke
and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its
application, the promotion of healthy living, and advocacy.

For further information:

For further information: or interview: CCC 2007 MEDIA OFFICE, (418)
649-5215 (Oct 21-24); Marie-Christine Garon, (514) 842-2455 ext. 23,, Massy-Forget Public Relations; After October 24, 2007,
contact: Jane-Diane Fraser, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, (613)
569-4361 ext 273,; Congress information and media registration

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