Ethnicity 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 develop heart disease. 

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. 

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

Why These Groups Are at Higher Risk

  • High blood pressure and diabetes are more common in these populations.1  
  • African Canadian women, in particular, are more commonly affected.1 
  • Indigenous communities have three to five times higher rates of diabetes compared to other Canadians.2  

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.