Ethnicity

Hands in a circleEthnicity describes people with the same cultural background or geographical ancestry. It’s also referred to as race. The ethnic group or race you belong to can have a genetic makeup and environmental influences that predispose its members to CVD.

People of the same ethnicity share many of the same genes, which is why family history and ethnicity are so closely linked. People with similar ancestry may pass down similar mutations in their genes.

First Nations people and people of African or Asian descent are at higher risk of developing heart disease.

Why These Groups Are at Higher Risk

First Nations

  • High blood pressure and diabetes are more common in this population.
  • First Nations people are up to eight times more likely to develop diabetes than other Canadian adults.
  • Both high blood pressure and diabetes are of great concern as they are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

People of African Descent

  • High blood pressure and diabetes are more common in this population.
  • African Canadian women, in particular, are more commonly affected.

People of Asian Descent

  • High blood pressure and diabetes are more common in this population.
  • In this group, culture is a big part of people’s lives, and dietary habits — including high saturated fat and sodium foods — are part of that culture.
  • People of Asian descent commonly face language barriers, which can keep them from understanding the CVD risks they face.
  • Language barriers may also keep Asian people from completely understanding healthy-heart awareness campaigns and messages.

Studies indicate that people from minority populations are less aware that smoking, high cholesterol, and family history increase their risk for heart disease. Awareness levels can impact a person’s decision about whether to start making healthy lifestyle changes.

In some instances, certain ethnic populations are simply more prone or sensitive to specific risk factors for less obvious reasons. Researchers are trying to identify exact causes, but it may very well be that intolerances to things such as salt (sodium) or sugars are genetic and non-modifiable, unrelated to lifestyle or cultural practice.