We’ve been told for ages that in order to live a long and healthy life, we need to have a healthy lifestyle complete with nutritious food and plenty of exercise. However, according to a new study from Emory University, the University of California at San Francisco, and Northwestern University, your ethnicity also plays a part in your overall health and your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of many potentially life-threatening diseases, including increased cardiovascular risk, possibly leading to heart attacks and even stroke. According to the study, researchers found that approximately one-third of people with a normal body mass index (BMI) had cardio-metabolic risk factors for heart disease, especially those of South Asian and Hispanic descent. These findings emphasized that members of these populations should get screened for cardiometabolic diseases (heart disease or diabetes risk), even if not overweight or obese.
Cardiometabolic risk is often compared to metabolic syndrome, but it’s considered more inclusive, accounting for additional risk factors that metabolic syndrome does not. Examples of the risk factors looked at in this study are:
- Obesity (particularly central or abdominal)
- Hyperglycemia (increase blood sugar)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Insulin resistance (precursor to type 2 diabetes)
- Dyslipoproteinemia (abnormal concentrations of fats in the blood stream)
- Family history
- Physical activity
“The key message for clinicians is that using overweight and obesity as the main criteria to screen for high blood pressure, high glucose, high triglycerides, or low HDL cholesterol will likely miss a substantial number of people who have high cardiometabolic risk but are of normal weight,” says first author Unjali Gujral, PhD.
This is no doubt an inconvenience to those affected, as their risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes may still be elevated despite a modified lifestyle. This has prompted the United States Preventative Services Task Force to officially recommend screening at younger ages in ethnic groups. This recommendation extends to those with normal weight and underweight individuals of these groups as well.
Related: Can you reverse heart disease?